Online video

The Big Bang Theory bounces back as Chinese censors repeal streaming ban for first foreign show

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 July, 2015, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 July, 2015, 4:20pm

Chinese censors removed The Big Bang Theory from video-streaming websites in April last year for unspecified “policy reasons” but have now reapproved the popular US sitcom about a group of nerdy scientist friends. 

It is the first show from overseas to get a green light by China's media watchdog after it imposed a regulation in 2014 mandating that all foreign-produced TV shows must pass a review before being streamed online.

Season eight will be streamed by major online video provider Sohu TV from July 22, according to a post by the company on microblogging site Sina Weibo, dubbed “China’s Twitter”.

Before it was banned, it accumulated over 1.3 billion views on Sohu, according to media reports.

The show aired in the US last September.

Testament to its popularity, three trailers uploaded by Sohu TV received 460,000 views in the first five days.

The first seven seasons are still not available for viewing in China, however.

The crackdown by Chinese censors in spring 2014 also saw a ban imposed in three more US shows, namely, The Good Wife, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and The Practice.

In response to an inquiry from a Chinese university student, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said the shows violated Article 16 of China’s Internet Audiovisual Programme Service Management Regulations.

The article relates to China’s sovereignty, state security, ethnic equality and social order.

SARFT sparked fierce debate in China in 2012 when it prohibited foreign shows from being broadcast domestically between the hours of 7 pm and 10 pm, considered peak viewing time. They were also limited to 50 episodes per show.

It amended the rules again this year so that new shows can only be shown in China at least six months after they debut overseas, in order to give Beijing enough time to monitor and censor their content.

After blazing a new trail in e-commerce courtesy of behemoths such as Alibaba, which operates the Taobao and Tmall online shopping platforms, and JD.com, China is putting more emphasis on its online operations.

This aligns with Premier Li Keqiang’s “Internet-plus” strategy, which Li has made a centrepiece of his economic policy this year.