Netflix’s global domination plans suffered a setback in China when its animated comedy “Bojack Horseman” was pulled from the country’s largest streaming service, iQiyi, after just two days of streaming.
China is not among the 130 countries where Netflix’s SVOD service currently operates. But last spring, it made a landmark licensing deal with iQiyi for several of its series that gave it entry to the world’s top commercial market. iQiyi, once controlled by Chinese online search giant Baidu, said recently it has about 20 million subscribers.
The move was first reported by Bloomberg. A spokesman for iQiyi, when asked by Bloomberg for an explanation, would say only that “adjustments need to be made to the content.”
“Bojack,” which features a lead voice performance by comic actor Will Arnett, is a satire about a 52-year-old alcoholic horse who is also a former sitcom star.
As Deadline and other outlets pointed out, battles over streaming content are nothing new in China. Regulators there have a history of pulling seemingly random shows without explanation. Back in 2014, it ordered local video sites to halt streaming of such series as “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Good Wife” and “NCIS,” as well as legal drama “The Practice.” Last week, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication Radio, Film and Television ordered services including Weibo, China’s Twitter, to stop broadcasting what it said was negative commentary in violation of government regulations.
The documentary series “Making a Murderer” and “Chef’s Table,” were both made available on iQiyi as of Tuesday. Among the other shows included in the original deal between Netflix and iQiyi are “Mindhunter” and the second season of “Stranger Things.”
Yang Xianghua, senior vice president of iQiyi, told Bloomberg before “BoJack Horseman” was pulled that in order to get content released concurrently in China, Netflix would need to leave enough lead time for Chinese authorities to censor the shows.
“The approval process is a bit long in China, takes at least a month," said Yang, who headed iQiyi’s licensing negotiations with Netflix.