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Consumer vs censorship

On the one hand, the Chinese market has huge potential, not just for film but for media in general. 

With a population of approximately 1.4 billion people, of which almost 800 million are mobile internet users, the market is almost there for content creators to lose. With so many mobile internet users, it is easy for the Chinese to consumer content on the go. Indeed, as many will have noticed, OTT content consumption is now on the rise, and China is no exception. The ease with which OTT content is accessed (everyone has a smartphone) also helps Chinese media content reach a wider audience. The likes of Netflix and other OTT providers have begun acquiring rights to Chinese web serials or entering into co-production agreements with local Chinese OTT companies. 

Content is king, and the consumer is dictating the content to be produced and watched. The more popular the show, the more likely it will be picked up by other OTT providers. The Chinese market seems set to grow from strength to strength. 

But we have also noticed some disquieting trends. 

In spite of the popularity of Chinese serials, Chinese authorities have also begun tightening their censorship and regulation policy. In recent years, shows as varied as Peppa Pig, Winnie the Pooh, Attack on Titan, Bojack Horseman and even the hugely popular Yanxi Palace have all been taken off air or removed from OTT apps. Reasons are not always given by the authorities for pulling programmes. In the case of Yanxi Palace, the change came about apparently after an article in state media criticised the historical drama genre for "promoting negative values such as luxury and viciousness". 

The mainland China film and media market is no doubt highly lucrative. However, given the opaque manner in which the regulatory authorities tend to operate and the sometimes unpredictable nature of their actions, it is also a tough market to crack. 

On the other side of the world, Chinese authorities have just tightened their policy and banned broadcasts of historical dramas. Several popular historical dramas were taken off air. The ban also applies to OTT programs and streaming websites. For some reason, the authorities believe these kinds of dramas are bad for the society. Officials had earlier curbed content featuring a number of other themes, including sci fi, crime and triad sagas.


china, film, media, dlapiper, ott, censorship

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