Watching TV Shows in China

From ChinaExpat.Wiki


If you are looking to watch TV shows in English (or anything other than Chinese) in China, you have quite a few good affordable options. These range from the standard Chinese cable channels to satellite and, of course, include the multitude of China domestic online streaming platforms.

Domestic Online TV[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of online television show streaming services that are available and legal in China. They mostly combine some ad-supported free content with subscriptions and pay-per-view. The prices are quite reasonable and generally cheaper than Netflix or similar services overseas. Best of all, because they are legitimate streaming services fro consumption in China, there is no need for a VPN or to resort to searching around sketchy pirate websites. If you want to sign up, most of these platforms accept payment and login via WeChat or AliPay, though some also allow you to pay via the Apple app store if you are using their iOS apps.

  • 360 - A pretty decent selection of programming here.
  • iQiyi - This is a great service that has been around for years. Their range of overseas programming is quite fantastic, though you may have to search for the Chinese name as some programs don't show up in the index.
  • PPTV - Not an enormous selection here, but a few decent shows that could keep you entertained.
  • TencentQQ - Tencent has one of the most comprehensive ranges of licensed English language TV online in China. Conveniently, their search engine also links to other streaming websites around the web. If they don't have a show themselves, they will often point you to somewhere that does. They also have sports from around the world online. As with all of these Chinese services, there is no English on the website, but navigating by pictures is painless enough.
  • Sohu - Another good selection of online streaming TV shows. More than enough solid entertainment here to keep you glued to the television.
  • Tudou - Easy to use interface with plenty of well-known TV shows.
  • Youku - This site has a good range of interesting English language TV shows. They index previews of TV shows that they don't have in the search, so if you go too far down in the linked indexes you will find the programs unwatchable.
  • Online live cable TV - As well as the dedicated online platforms, CCTV provides a live online stream of its programming. If you are looking to catch up on the news or watch a live sporting event, this is often the best portal to access.

VPN[edit | edit source]

As with so many other problems in China, a VPN opens up options. Using a good VPN may allow you to watch TV from back home as if you are there. The results of this really depend on the VPN service you use and the strictness of the overseas TV service about what kind of connections are allowed.

Also see: Internet Access and VPN's in China

Torrenting Television in China[edit | edit source]

Torrenting content over the internet is as problematic from a legality perspective in China as it is in most parts of the world. There is some content the legally distributed over torrents, but the vast majority is distributed illegally. The major issue with torrents is that as you download, you are also distributing the content from your computer and your computer starts actively advertising its address to the world potentially telling anyone who is interested where to find you.

Having understood the above, if you still feel like you would like to torrent content from inside China you will probably want to run the connection through a VPN. This will help in several ways:

  • You will not be advertising your own address on the internet, but rather the VPN provider's address;
  • You will likely have access to more servers distributing content as it is likely that many will be blocked within China
  • Speeds will likely be faster as VPNs tend to have better routing to international destinations than a direct Chinese internet connection.

The major problem with this is that torrenting over VPN violates the terms of server for some of the major VPN providers. If you are looking for a VPN package that you will be torrenting over, you should make sure it is specifically included. Depending on their jurisdiction, if a VPN provider starts getting contacted by content owners about your computer distributing material illegally on their network, they may be compelled to provide your details by law enforcement. VPN providers who advertise as allowing bittorrent on their network have usually worked out the legalities in order to provide their service in a way that is at least risk free to them.

Real-Debrid to for Torrents[edit | edit source]

Real-Debrid is a service that converts torrents from around the internet into files served directly from their servers. For a small feel, Real-Debrid allows users to access torrents from a single, high speed, cached source without needed to also reshare the file with the internet.

When you use Real-Debrid, you have access to most of the same torrents that are available available through the major torrent platforms, but because you are downloading from a single source and not also uploading, your chances of running afoul of the law is much less. Due to the fact that it is difficult for consumers to know whether they are accessing illegal materials, most countries are very struck on illegal distribution of protected media, but tend to take a more lenient stance towards those that are simply streaming media from the web. That doesn't make accessing copyrighted content for free via Real-Debrid 100% legal, but it may provide some protection.

Aside from improving a Torrent user’s legal position, Real-Debrid’s caching allows fast, high resolution streaming of a large number of bit torrent media files. On most fast internet connections, Real-Debrid allows users to immediately stream almost any well shared torrent, regardless of how slow or unreliable the original torrents are. To ensure that you are making the most of their connect speed, running Real-Debrid with a VPN will improve your download times and further reduce your personal risk.

Chinese State Television[edit | edit source]

If you don't have a great internet connection and are looking to watch TV in China, the following channels could be of interest. Mostly set-top boxes will be tuned such that the channel numbers line up with the number on the device, but in some cases, it will just be a matter of surfing through the channels until you find the corresponding watermark.

  • CCTV-5 - This is China's official sports channel. Here you will find coverage of many of the major competitions that China is competing in, but also coverage of international events that are popular in China. These include the Olympics, NBA, and Football (Soccer).
  • CCTV-5+ - Also belonging to CCTV-5, this channel normally shows reruns of events shown on CCTV-5 or, when there are multiple events on at the same time, will show other events CCTV-5. This is particularly useful during World Cup Soccer and the Olympics.
  • CGTN - A collection of news and documentary channels featuring English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic language content. The content is mostly news and documentaries designed to portray China in a positive light or to illustrate China's perspective on global current affairs. Many of the documentaries are quite spectacular and the news covers a wide range of world events, though often with China's characteristic propaganda spin.

Satelite[edit | edit source]

Depending on where you live in China, there are a number of illegal satellite installers who can install dishes and provide connections to overseas providers, such as those in the Philippines. This is dangerous though and could result in police knocking on your door if they spot the dish from the street.