Chinese Appetite for U.S. TV Shows Grows

Online TV company Youku Tudou adds more licensed Hollywood skeins to its catalog

Pretty Little Liars

BEIJING — There are growing signs China is offering real opportunities for American TV companies to sell licensed content, as the country’s biggest online TV company Youku Tudou announces that it will crank up the number of top U.S. skeins in its international library this year.

Youku Tudou already has one of the country’s largest libraries of licensed Hollywood TV content. Since 2010, it has imported more than 20 hit dramas and variety shows, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Glee,” “Survivor” and “America’s Got Talent.”

This year that number will rise to 33 titles, including “Vampire Diaries,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Revenge,” “Elementary,” “Modern Family,” “2 Broke Girls,” “666 Park Avenue” and “Cougar Town.”

Youku Tudou said local auds’ consumption of U.S. TV had seen “explosive growth, including a roughly 400% increase from 2011 to 2012. Average views for single episodes reach as high as 2.5 million.”

The Chinese market is huge, with 550 million webizens and counting. The number of mobile web users was up nearly 18%, or 64.4 million new users, to 420 million total users last year, but much online content is pirated.

While Youku and Tudou, which merged last year, started out copying the business model of YouTube — which is banned in China — the new entity has focused in recent years on providing licensed content, which is good news for Hollywood and other overseas shingles trying to break into the country.

Using its in-house content metrics and analysis platform, Youku Tudou identifies foreign dramas that will work locally, which it says, together with its dominance in the online video industry, provides U.S. TV content with unparalleled access to Chinese auds.

After appearing on Youku.com, “The Walking Dead” became the most watched U.S. skein in China, reaching the Top 3 on Google-equivalent Baidu’s TV list, with the third season garnering more than 95 million views.