How to Watch Your Favorite TV Shows Legally in China Without a VPN

By That's, May 23, 2019

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In 2014, Sohu made headlines by obtaining the exclusive online broadcasting rights to new episodes of Saturday Night Live. That same year, Tencent made a deal with Game of Thrones channel HBO, giving them almostexclusive rights to HBO’s content. While the international slant was amazement that the American satirical institution or the sexy adult channel would make it to the Chinese mainland, the moves signaled the increasingly fierce battleground for Chinese online video supremacy. 

The true winners, though, are all of us residents living behind the Great Firewall. The number of shows legitimately available online is staggering, from all Law and Order and Doctor Who variations, to the latest episodes of Black Mirror. While Game of Thrones has reached its conclusion, there are still plenty of other shows to keep you entertained. Our That’s primer to China’s video sites is the perfect companion to a lazy summer.

1. Tencent

While Tencent was slightly late to the streaming game, when talking about bringing the wonders of Hollywood to the Middle Kingdom, it has managed to become the more well-known streaming site. Tencent is one of the only places to watch Game of Thrones legally, and the website also has a wide variety of shows available for the discerning consumer. True, all eight seasons of GoT are available (with VIP membership), but it also has a lot more to offer, such as fan favorites like Westworld and Riverdale.

The only negative thing we have to say about Tencent is that sometimes the platform doesn’t have full seasons of older shows. Pfft, nobody even wants to watch only episode four of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

The Tencent app is indispensable for anyone with a tablet, and the quality is surprisingly decent when connected by an HDMI cable to a large TV. The price is also something to get excited about, as Tencent video is only RMB12 for the first month and RMB15 for successive months after.

2. Sohu

Sohu used to have an impressive catalogue of exclusives, which included the latest episodes of House of Cards and, the favorite in China, The Big Bang Theory

While the shows are grouped together intuitively, making it easy for non-Chinese readers to navigate, the selection has become rather limited in the last few years. Once a show finishes their latest season, exclusive rights run out, which makes them available for all. Sohu does a great job of collecting most seasons of popular shows like Better Call Saul, Arrow and Modern Family

Viewers have to sit through a minute of advertising but the video is crisp. Additionally, the app is handy for watching videos while riding the metro. 

While most episodes of recent shows are available for free, some require a membership to view. Membership prices start from RMB15 per month. 

3. Youku

Youku has been a giant since its 2012 USD864-million acquisition of Tudou. The platform has a wide variety of short videos as well as full-length shows available with their VIP membership.

All four seasons of BBC’s Sherlock and all 11 seasons of Doctor Who are available. The number of British shows has, unfortunately, been dropping since 2014 and, in 2018, it had only four new British programs, none with well-known names. The site also has American hits like Twin Peaks and the dark American Gods. Unfortunately, after 2017, new American shows have disappeared from the site.

Like Sohu, the app is user-friendly. While their main TV page is a bit harder to navigate, anyone familiar with YouTube can figure out Youku’s search function as TV shows have dedicated pages.

The VIP membership ranges from RMB16 to RMB25 per month, depending on the package you want. 

4. iQiyi

This Baidu subsidiary is more focused on obtaining rights to Asian hits, and is the online home to the upcoming season of homegrown reality TV program, Where Are We Going, Dad? iQiyi also has a solid collection of Western shows available including the latest seasons of Gotham, Teen Wolf and Fargo.

Depending on the promotion, the price per month may range from RMB6 to RMB19.

5. PPTV.com

This peer-to-peer streaming video was developed at Huazhong University of Science and Technology and is more focused on sports programming. PPTV is also the only other place to watch Game of Thrones legally. The website also do a nice job collecting available movies including the new (How to Train your Dragon), the mega-hits (Black Panther) and the classics (Gladiator).

Prices range from RMB15 per month to RMB148 per year.

6. BiliBili

Bilibili is a streaming and gaming site dedicated almost entirely to anime and cute, short videos of Asian women with absurdly big eyes and hands positioned adorably under their chins in some kind of non-carnivorous animal pose. While searching the site we found a full-length version of the cult classic Akira and two seasons of steampunk hit Last Exile, but the site was hard to use and all the videos are in the original Japanese with Chinese subtitles. 

There doesn’t seem to be any fees for watching the site’s videos, but there are tickets to comic conventions and anime festivals available on the site. 

This article originally appeared on Thatsmags.com in January 2014. It has been updated and republished on May 23, 2019.

[Cover image via HBO/IMDb]

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