SARFT D-day Arrives, Starting 2015 No Overseas Show Can Air Online in China Unless Complete

D-day has arrived in the halls of the Chinese domestic viewing experience and the howls of rage and sadness abound. Late last year in 2014, the almighty SARFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film) issued one of its inexplicable decrees concerning what can be aired in China whether on the big screen, televisions, and even internet viewing portals. This particular decree had widespread ramifications that reverberated strongly in US television entertainment as well as K-drama land. SARFT’s edict demanded that starting in 2015, no overseas shows can be aired online in China if it’s not completed already, and those must first be screened by SARFT and approved.

The US television industry naturally went batshit since US shows are seasonal and run for many years before a series finale airs so there is no way popular shows will ever see the light of day over the Chinese web waves. K-dramas are less problematic since the short ones are 16-episodes and the long weekend dramas still have finite episodes upwards of 50-episodes. But this still means K-dramas can no longer be live-aired online and must wait for a show finish before getting SARFT approval. Last year all the popular K-dramas made headlines for how much it sold the online rights to various Chinese video portals like Youku or iQiyi, not to mention how many times a drama was viewed in China became a badge of its popularity. That’s all over (for) now.

C-netizens were hoping SARFT either backtracked on this edict or postponed the enforcement, but sadly that’s not to be. Starting January 1st of this year, K-drama fans in China grew increasingly concerned when there have no new K-dramas streaming legally over the Chinese video portals whether its new SBS weekend drama Birth of a Family, MBC prime time drama Kill Me Heal Me, or any news of upcoming KBS drama Spy which lots of Jaejoong fans in China have been anticipating. The still airing K-dramas which premiered in late 2014 will be allowed to finish up its legal streaming run on the video portals which purchased the exclusive rights, including Pinocchio, Healer, The King’s Face, Punch, Pride & Prejudice, and so forth.

This is why there have been no news articles on how much upcoming Hyun Bin drama Hyde, Jekyll, Me sold to China video streaming since the big video streaming companies can no longer buy rights to air a K-drama until it finishes the entire run and obtains SARFT approval. Same goes for Kill Me Heal Me which doesn’t have an official Chinese video airing platform since the airing rights hasn’t been scooped up in China. This edict won’t affect HK-dramas since it’s one country-two systems so HK-entertainment is not considered overseas. Not sure if TW-dramas will fall under this radar since that’s a touchy political question there. J-doramas are less popular in China but still have plenty of fans, all of whom are equally disappointed not to be able to live-watch news shows, unless pirated of course.


SARFT D-day Arrives, Starting 2015 No Overseas Show Can Air Online in China Unless Complete — 49 Comments

  1. Good and Bad for the kdrama industry.
    However, i hope this makes them focus more on the Quality of their shows and stop making dramas with crappy plots just for the Chinese market

    • Do you really think that the crappy plots came about because of focusing on the Chinese market? SMH. Last I heard, Chinese people aren’t really any more lowbrow than people of other nationalities.

      • well not to generalize but a lot of crappy dramas have done well on online portals eg Doctor Stranger, My Lovely Girl.
        Who knows how KMHM will turn out too esp as its a chinese coproduction?
        Seems like they are more focused on OPpa, Oppa than actual plot

      • Ok, so you have two examples of shows that were not popular in Korea doing well in China. Nothing near the sample size you would need to argue that Chinese preferences would be a major driver for the deterioration of Kdramas… let’s be real. Those crappy dramas would have been made with or without Chinese influence. Plus, regarding KMHM – that one is all on the screenwriter. You know, Jin Soo Wan, who gave Koreans their favorite drama of the past several years.

    • It’s not a co-production in that the drama is considered half a C-drama. KMHM merely got Chinese financing without any Chinese involvement in the production process.

  2. This does not surprise me at all. Naturally the Chinese government had to be growing more and more concerned about infiltration of foreign influences into popular culture. I expected that they would attempt to keep as tight a rein on television imports as they do on the Internet in general. It’s all about control, over thought, over culture, and especially over revenue.

    • Over culture is sooo true nowadays. Last month SARFT issued a new decree for domestic television – no show can air on TV if it has a plotline where the female lead loves more than one man throughout the entire story. Apparently the female lead having more than one love interest is promoting female promiscuity or something like that.

      • What?! Thats so crazy! How can it be promiscuity liking two guys unless you are sleeping with both. But isnt it normal to have love line and have someone challenge the feeling of the lead male. Thats gonna be so boring!

        No wonder they are crazy over kdramas there even if its totally a fail in korea because its something new that they havent seen before. There are variations of plot and its always interesting to see something thats different from the norm.

  3. Long live pirating!! Its stupid. Why do this to harmless citizens who are living happily enjoying their dramas and turn them into angry citizens?

    • pirating is good for nettizens, but for production firms/tv networks, they will no longer account pre-sale to their production cost

  4. Nooo… wtf?! I watch all my korean dramas on Chinese online video portals because they have high quality streams and they provide high quality subs in lightning speed. Whoever came up with this asinine regulation? The one bright spot in this whole fiasco is that at the very least, that Healer will be exempt from this rule since it aired in late 2014. But still arghhhh..

  5. The truly obsessed will find a way with illegal streaming… but this is still kind of surprising to me. I never realized that Kdramas were so popular in China that the central government had to go this far. You learn something new every day.

    • Apparently this reg was targeted primarily at US shows, K-dramas and J-doramas are less popular there than US shows and are the collateral damage in this case.

      • So if this is targeted at US shows so when they say “until the show has completed” do they mean the season is over OR the show is off the air for good like soprano?

      • Completed as in “all done for good” so a US show running for multiple seasons can only be approved when it runs a series finale, not when there is a season finale.

    • Then i guess they’ll have to wait longer. It wont be so big a problem for kdramas since its episodes are shorter. But im worried for the contents of the drama since they are gonna be inspecting it so they can chop of any scene they deem unworthy.

  6. Who are the actual people there? How come their thinking is so out of steps with the rest of China?

    It doesn’t affect me however their thinking is really bizarre. Are they professionals or really5 backward and culturally biased? I don’t know how to describe them.

    • It’s not bizarre from their standpoint. They want to battle foreign cultural influences (especially ones that often take a very different viewpoint on shared historical experiences) while at the same time ‘protecting’ the market for domestic entertainment. Now, of course, this is all nonsense – SARFT is what is keeping Chinese dramas from reaching their full potential in the first place and in any case stifling competition simply doesn’t work. They’re simply robbing legit companies of revenue by driving viewers to the black market of illegal streaming.

      • I wonder now if their is any difference in the plotlines of most of their drama if things are that controlled. Since the writers are restricted into thinking outside of the box.

    • Also, they are culturally biased but no more than any other group of Asians imo. The political setup just makes it easier to act on those biases.

  7. It amazes me that anyone is able to control 1,367,380,000 people.

    If the citizens wanted to eff with the govt en masse, the people would win.
    It would be like stopping a massive river of small water molecules.

    Alas, that is another discussion!!

  8. In general I agree with skelly’s comment. It is all about control and curbing foreign influences.
    SARF last year revoked screening rights on Chinese drama with time travel themes. And then came the most popular ‘ My lover from another star ‘ etc. so that causes a dilemma . One set of rules for domestic and one set of rules for foreign contense. It doesn’t make sense for them. And as any government agency , they are slow. So they are trying to gain time to actually view the content. But I think they really are behind the 8ball. The Technology genie is out of the bottle. And people will find a way to watch what they want after they know what is out there.

    Also there might be some envy, I remember some guy from the polit bureau standing committee making official statement. China should produce drama as popular as ‘ my lover from another star’ , to assert superior chiniese culture and values on other Asian nations in particular and at a later stage to influence global culture.

    Go figure!

    • Even time travel?! Then what kind of writing do they want? If every show has almost similar plotlines all the time, no wonder kdramas are popular there since the local shows must have the same recycled plotlines over again?

      Im just really wondering what kind of quality of drama they have if its so restricted?is their drama really that bad for the people to go crazy over international dramas rather their own?

      • The really popular Chinese dramas are arguably more popular domestically than the hotter Korean dramas though. It’s interesting that Chinese dramas actually have greater variety but less quality. They tend to have heavier plots too, unlike K-dramas which are based on romance more. It’s just that it’s only recently that the Chinese market started making more and more dramas like K-dramas that cater to younger audiences. In that aspect they are a little lacking, but I would say that Chinese historical dramas >> Korean sagueks. That’s just my personal opinion though. And perhaps they also want to stop Korean dramas like Empress Ki from influencing mainstream viewers with distortion of history. The ban on time-travel dramas is also because of concern that all the made up stuff will be regarded as what really happened. So generally, historical dramas/dramas with ancient settings are more strictly monitored.

      • @ kitai
        Thank you for the explanation. I was curious because ive heard many times of the qualities of drama they have and think if its that bad. Heavier plotlines can also be sometimes be tiring much as its entertaining because sometimes you just want to watch a show at ease. A feel good show. But i do think it more on the cultural aspect that they are doing this.

  9. Hmm, I wonder if this means the popularity of kdramas domestically will affect their subsequent sales overaease considering previously it seemed like they were sold overseas based on the names and popularity of the stars in the shows

    • Could go the other way too. Sometimes restrictions makes the yearning more stronger. It furthers fuel the fire especially with fans. I bet the wait will just make them to want all kdramas and when its there they will all be like oppa! Oppa! This can probably have the reverse psychology effect the fans can just get more excited with all the long wait they have to do.

  10. Wow this is ridiculous…and more bad news for the kdrama industry than any good that will come out of it. Lots of korean actors and actresses are trying to grow their popularity in China. Can’t expect this to be good for them.

  11. While there certainly are plenty of far (faaar) more devastating situations people are facing in the world, this still totally sucks for lots of people.

  12. this heavily impacts the kdramas that run daily 100+. Super popular on chinese streaming sites and no english translators to be had.

  13. Too bad for Chinese people… The govt looks down upon them as if they need parenting…I’d be pissed if they did it my country.

  14. Already sick of the Chinese government and their stupid regulations. Thumbs down to the SARFT -__- After what they forced on The Empress of China…offically so so so so sick of them omfg

  15. Even before there’s those licensed online streaming sites, Chinese subbing groups were the one that made overseas contents available and made them popular. So I guess we all just go back to the good olden days, back downloading from subbing group (which I always do anyways). It doesn’t affect korean and japanese dramas that much. Even the US series, there’s still a lot of subbing groups that sub them. When there’s a will, there’s always a way.

  16. I wonder how this will affect us outside PRC, because I depend on the Mainland fansubbers to sub j/k/th dramas(their speed is amazing!) >_<

  17. This really won`t affect k-dramas as much as American shows. Can you imaging having to watch Game of Thrones after like 8 season? Messy.

  18. Oh dear! I just started watching my dramas on Chinese online portals recently for the amazing speed, quality and subtitles but now.. uh oh 🙁

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