Tech

Cult Netflix show gets pulled abruptly in China, dealing a blow to the streaming giant

Why, censors, why?

Netflix has hit a snag, as it makes its first steps into China.

The streaming giant’s hit original series Bojack Horseman got pulled from iQiyi, China’s biggest streaming service, a mere two days after it was first aired, reported Bloomberg.

Netflix was airing it in China via a licensing deal with iQiyi, which has over 500 million monthly users in the country.

iQiyi had only aired three episodes of the show when it was pulled on June 21. A spokesperson from the streaming service told Variety that "adjustments need to be made to the content," but didn’t say when the show would return to the site.

Image: Netflix

The incident has hit Chinese fans hard. Bojack Horseman had already garnered a domestic fanbase, thanks to online streaming (and, ahem, downloads).

On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, Bojack Horseman memes abound, largely thanks to the show’s eponymous anti-hero who’s resounded with China’s millennial viewers.

So it’s no surprise that Weibo users were pretty miffed that the show was pulled:

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

"I paid for a membership just to watch Bojack yesterday, and when I went to search today I can’t find it. Why? @iQiyi"

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

"Wanted to pay for a VIP membership at iQiyi to watch Bojack, but when I went to search the show was gone! How could this happen?"

Many also expressed cynicism and anger at Chinese censors:

"The SAPPRFT (China’s censorship board) really has nothing better to do — they want to control everything people see!"

"Oh, by the time you air it, I’d have finished animating the whole thing myself."

Some just went back to blatantly asking for downloads:

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

"Bojack has been taken off iQiyi — the critics are still out for this show, but no one’s complaining about Rick and Morty yet. Quick, PM me for links!"

Image: Ng Yi Shu/Mashable

"Doesn’t everyone just download the show? Wait, you can watch it online?"

"Yeah, downloading it is so much safer 😝"

Chinese censors have been mercurial in deciding what it wants to cut, which has made Netflix’s entry into the country pretty difficult.

A deal with iQiyi was aimed at reducing the amount of hassle Netflix would have faced trying to break into China alone — the country’s censorship and content policy meant that it had to obtain a government licence and have its original content approved by censors.

But it seems that the licensing deal hasn’t been able to stop that.

Netflix’s documentaries Making a Murderer and Chef’s Table — released on iQiyi earlier in June — remain available on the streaming platform. iQiyi also plans to release Mindhunter and the second season of Stranger Things, according to Bloomberg.

Image: iQiyi

The company’s senior vice-president told Bloomberg before Bojack was pulled, that Netflix had to give Chinese censors lead time to approve its content.

"The approval process is a bit long in China," Yang, who was in-charge of the company’s licensing agreements with Netflix, said. "[It] takes at least a month."

We reached out to iQiyi, and will update if we hear back.

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