Homegrown Chinese TV Dramas Set for Online Boom

Shows produced in China will bring in revenue of $320 million-plus, according to a research firm.

Domestically produced online TV dramas are primed for a boom in China this year, industry analysts say, with revenues set to soar past $320 million. Homegrown series will then account for 25 percent of the total content market investment in China.

China is the world's second-biggest film market, and U.S. companies have started making revenues from selling content to such sites as Youku Tudou, Baidu's iQIYI, Sohu.com and Tencent, but negotiating the country's regulatory environment can be tricky.

Read more China's Wanda Buys Infront Sports & Media From Bridgepoint for $1.2 Billion

New rules that require regulators to sign off on foreign TV shows before they can be offered on Chinese video sites are tough for U.S. content providers, and they are also set to be widened to include movies.

Under rules due to come into effect on April 1, all TV shows must be screened in advance by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT). In 2014, the number of online TV shows rose by 100, which is double the number in 2013, research group Entgroup said. Of those, 55 were produced by the video website operators themselves.

These shows include Youku Tudou's Surprises, which notched up over 1.6 billion clicks during its first two seasons, and Sohu.com's Diors Man, which had 2.1 billion viewers over its first three seasons.

Read more U.S. Leads Mature Markets for Digital Potential, China Leads Emerging Markets (Study)

In September, SAPPRFT said it must okay all foreign TV shows before they can be posted on video sites, and producers must present the whole season for approval before a show can be screened.

Domestic shows have an easier time at the censors, as local producers are more aware of what can and cannot get past SAPPRFT. Zhang Xiaoming, vice deputy of culture studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Beijing Business News that even though Internet dramas were developing very fast, there was still a shortage.

"Because there are more and more broadcasting channels, coupled with more people using mobile devices, people will use their time to watch videos, and the need is increasing," said Zhang.

Read more Berlin: France Setting the Pace On China Co-Productions

"All of these reasons make for a shortage of online content. The video websites aim at this shortage in the market and get access to the market by its advanced technology. At the moment, the market for Internet dramas has very good prospects," said Zhang, who warned against too much investment in the market.