'Saturday Night Live' Starting a China Edition

First Challenge: Finding the Balance on Satire About Social and Political Issues

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Live from China: It's Saturday Night.

After 40 years as a weekend staple on U.S. TV screens, "Saturday Night Live" will start a Chinese version in partnership with Sohu.com, operator of an online search engine and video streaming sites.

The deal with Broadway Video Entertainment, founded in 1979 by "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels, will see comedians from across China hired for the show featuring live music and sketch comedy, according to a statement. Sohu already streams the U.S. version to viewers in China.

The show, which airs on NBC, has spawned generations of comics who have gone onto global fame, including Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, Tina Fey, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. The program aired its 40th anniversary show last month.

"China's Communist Party has been looking for new ways to engage with an audience because past forms of preaching are no longer suitable for today," said Wang Sixin, a Beijing-based professor at the Communication University of China. "What Sohu needs to be careful about, though, is finding the right balance when doing satire about social and political issues."

Broadway Video produces TV programs including "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and "Portlandia." The company also developed films including "Mean Girls," according to its website.

China's internet operators are boosting their spending on content to draw users as foreign companies seek to tap a market of more than 1.3 billion people.

Alibaba Group Holding, China's biggest e-commerce operator, owns a stake in streaming website Youku Tudou, and Baidu, operator of the nation's most-popular search engine, controls the Iqiyi video site.

Tencent Holdings airs content from Time Warner Inc.'s HBO, with programs including "Game of Thrones," "Band of Brothers" and "True Detective."

~ Bloomberg News ~

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