Fans of overseas dramas like The Walking Dead and 2 Broke Girls received unwelcome news over the weekend when they switched on their internet-connected televisions - a blue screen with a message saying Beijing was pulling the plug on a popular way to access the shows. "To comply with the requirements from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (Sarft), we decided to upgrade our operating system," the message says. "Thereafter, 81 third-party applications declared illegal by Sarft will be shut down." Many mainland viewers have downloaded these applications from stores on the mainland and installed them onto their television smart boxes. The software gives them access to foreign shows and news broadcasts such as Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, bypassing the censors in the process. Viewers get a wider choice of entertainment and it is cheaper than paying for cable. But Sarft is cracking down on the practice and issued an order on November 6 telling the manufacturers of the smart boxes they must delete unauthorised apps from the operating systems of the devices, state media reported. Sarft has issued licences to produce internet content for television to seven state-owned media companies. Smart box manufacturers must partner with one of these authorised companies if they want to display content. Consumers were angered by the announcement. "I downloaded applications and installed them on the TV boxes that I bought. And they were wiped out this way. How is it different from burglary?" one person said on Weibo. Others said Sarft was becoming too heavy-handed. "Everything that is in the good interest of Chinese people, we should forbid them," read one popular comment mimicking the censors. Many called for the media watchdog to open a Weibo account so the public could address censors directly, a call that received support from a surprising source - the state run Global Times . It asked Sarft: "When will you create a Weibo account?" Sarft's next step is to improve its own operating system - TVOS1.0 - for hosting third-party applications on the smart boxes. But it remains to be seen whether the administration will force box manufacturers, like Alibaba which has its own operating system YunOS, to adopt the "official" one.