China Said to Limit Foreign TV Content on Streaming Websites

Sep 03, 2014 11:25 pm ET

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- China will limit the amount of foreign television programs allowed on Internet video-streaming sites, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The regulations, set to be announced as soon as today, will cap the number of foreign shows at 30 percent of content offered by the sites, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the rules haven’t been made public.

A cap on foreign content is part of a broader government campaign to tighten Internet controls and limit content for China’s 632 million Web users. In April, China barred video websites from airing four U.S. television shows including “The Good Wife” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Chinese video streaming sites, including those offered by Sohu.com Inc. and Youku Tudou Inc., have snapped up copyrights to licensed 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 Chief Executive Officer Charles Zhang said in May. The company was working with the government to clarify those practices, he said.

The new regulations will be issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, according to the person. The agency didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Jay Chen, a Beijing-based spokesman for Youku Tudou; Jiang Xin, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Sohu; and Dong Qianqiu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Baidu Inc.’s IQiyi.com, said they couldn’t immediately comment.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the 30 percent limit earlier today.