Late-night American TV sketch show, Saturday Night Live (SNL), will be heading to Web-enabled screens in China and broadcast exclusively on media streaming site, Sohu Video.
The business unit of Chinese online media group, Sohu.com, said Thursday 10 episodes of the current 39th season of SNL were immediately available on its website, with future episodes to be released online without Chinese subtitles on the Monday after their U.S. broadcast. Subsequent versions with Chinese subtitles, including explanations of cultural references, will be available at 10p.m. the following Saturday, the company said.
First aired in 1975, the long-running NBC network comedy show features original sketches and musical performances that touch on various local and international topics including China, in which one sketch depicted a media conference with then-president Hu Jintao telling off his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama over the country's national debt.
Sohu Chairman and CEO Charles Zhang, though, said he did not expect SNL's themes--several of which often touched on political issues--would land the Chinese company in trouble with its government. Noting that cultural references differed, Zhang explained: "Things that are controversial in America are probably not controversial in China, and this talk show is in the spirit of fun and humor. I don't think there will be any problem."
If proven popular in China, he added, SNL could inspire local companies to produce similar shows with similar formats, even if the content might differ. "It's a different political setting [in China, compared to the U.S.]," he said at a media conference.
Sohu Video licenses several shows from the U.S., Japan, and China's in-house variety shows including The Voice of China, which clocked nearly 2 billion video views, the company said in a report by Associated Press.
Zhang noted that U.S. shows had helped generate advertising dollars online in China. While he did not say how much Sohu paid to secure the exclusive online broadcast rights for SNL in China, he said the amount was lower per episode compared to a typical U.S. drama series.
China adopts strict censorship practices, and the Chinese government restricts foreign access to China's TV audience as well as prohibits most local cable operators from broadcasting foreign channels. Such access is more easily available via online video websites.