China's Popular Online Video Sites Face New Regulations

China Orders Video-Streaming Sites to Register TV Shows

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'The Walking Dead' is popular in China.
'The Walking Dead' is popular in China. Credit: Gene Page/AMC

China has ordered video-streaming sites to get state approval to run foreign TV shows and films as authorities in the world's largestiInternet market tighten online control.

Video sites need to register foreign TV and films by the end of March. From April 1, unregistered content can't be shown online, according to a statement posted on the website of China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

In April, China barred video websites from airing four U.S. television shows including "The Good Wife" and "The Big Bang Theory." The country plans to cap the amount of foreign TV programs allowed on the sites at 30%, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the rules haven't been made public.

"Rules are getting tighter and online video sites will be likely regulated under similar standards as Chinese TV stations in the future," said Luke Xu, an analyst at Shanghai-based IResearch. "Foreign films and TV shows only account for a small proportion of shows on most Chinese video sites, so the impact is limited."

Chinese companies, including Sohu.com Inc. and Youku Tudou Inc., have snapped up copyrights to license TV content, offering shows from the U.S., Europe and South Korea to consumers for free -- often within hours of the episodes airing in their home countries. In March, China responded to the exploding demand on video-streaming sites by stepping up regulations to block content deemed vulgar or having a "negative impact on society."

Policies concerning video sites importing TV shows have been unclear, Sohu CEO Charles Zhang said in May. The company was working with the government to clarify those practices, he said.

"We don't see material impact on our traffic or revenue in the near term," Youku Tudou said in an e-mailed statement Friday. "The new regulations won't take effect until 2015, it allows us time to adjust and comply."

Jiang Xin, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Sohu; and Wang Liyuan, a spokeswoman for Baidu Inc.'s IQiyi.com, declined to comment.

-- Bloomberg News --

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