In a bid to push “morality-building programs” Chinese regulator SAPPRFT has issued a decree to cut back on imports and non-factual programming. Beginning in 2014, satellite broadcasters will be allowed to acquire rights to only one foreign format — and the one they do pick up will be restricted to airing outside of primetime. What’s more, state media report, only one musical talent show will be approved every quarter. There will also be a 7.5-hour daily blackout period on broadcasting serials and entertainment programs; the time instead will be filled with news and education programming.
China is forecast to be the biggest pay-TV market by the end of 2018 with 313 million households, and this directive officially came down just days after the Mipcom TV market wrapped in Cannes. Chinese buyers have become a fixture at foreign markets and this move could put a damper on some of the business they do with overseas companies. Competition shows like China’s Got Talent and Chinese Idol have been successfully adapted in recent years. News of the restrictions comes after a Chinese delegation spent the weekend in Hollywood, talking up the future for collaboration between U.S. and China film and TV production companies.
The Chinese also consume a lot of television over the Internet, and the new rules could send more viewers that way. At Mipcom, FremantleMedia International signed a multi-year digital deal with portal Youku for more than 200 hours of premium entertainment and drama content. Shows made available to online audiences averaging 14 million unique users a day include American Idol, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent and Project Runway.
The restrictions could be a boon for one sector, however. Documentaries have become increasingly popular in China with revenues from the industry skyrocketing from $64.5M in 2009 to $241.9M in 2011. Since then, eight docu channels have been added in China with 8,700 hours of programming.