Sohu to Reintroudce ‘Big Bang Theory’ After TV Show Halt

Sohu.com Inc. (SOHU) wants to reintroduce “The Big Bang Theory” in China as it discusses with the government how online video companies can broadcast U.S. programs after four shows were halted last month.

The government is reviewing the plans and may issue new regulations this year concerning Chinese video sites’ importing of overseas shows, Chief Executive Officer Charles Zhang said in an interview yesterday. The shows may reappear within months, he said.

Chinese video sites, including Baidu Inc. (BIDU)’s IQiyi, have been aggressively buying copyrights to licensed content to win advertisers and paying members as China’s 618 million Web users search for entertainment. Policies on video sites importing TV shows have remained a gray area, and Sohu said it’s working with the government to bring more clarity to such practices.

“We are actually in a way working with the government together,” Zhang said. “The government is studying the incident and it’s probably good for policy direction.”

Sohu rose 2.5 percent in U.S. trading to close at $55.93, the first gain this week. The stock has dropped 23 percent this year.

Two phone calls to the press office line provided by the reception office of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television were unanswered outside normal business hours yesterday.

The U.S. TV shows, including “The Good Wife,” that were taken down from its site cater to an audience with higher purchasing power, Zhang said. The removal of “Big Bang Theory” may reduce second-quarter sales for the company’s video site by less than 1 percent, he said.

Zhang declined to comment on the reasons for the shows being taken down.

Returning Soon

The government may allow Sohu to bring back “Big Bang Theory,” Zhang said.

“They told us ‘we will let you show it in the future’,” he said. “Soon. Weeks or months.”

“The Big Bang Theory” is Sohu’s most popular U.S. TV show. All U.S. TV shows added together contribute less than 10 percent of traffic for Sohu, which positions itself as the “best destination for premium American content.” The company will continue to import U.S. TV shows, Zhang said.

Government censors are tightening control over content. Sina Corp. (SINA), parent of China’s largest microblogging service, said in April it may be stripped of two licenses because some of the contents posted on its website were deemed pornographic.

The government agency that oversees media outlets issued a notice stepping up regulations on online TV shows and films “to prevent vulgar content, base art form, violence and sexual content in online videos having a negative impact on society.”

President Xi Jinping kicked off a “Cleaning the Web 2014” campaign in April, resulting in the deletions of 110 websites and 3,300 accounts from China-based social networking services such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700)’s WeChat and Weibo Corp., according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at ychen447@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net Subramaniam Sharma

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