‘Saturday Night Live’ Airing Online in China

SNL-China-Sohu

“Pre-recorded from the U.S., it’s Saturday Night!”

“Saturday Night Live” just grew its potential audience by more than a billion, as the popular U.S. late night staple is now being shown in China.

The long-running sketch comedy program is available exclusively on the website of Sohu Video, a branch of Chinese online media group Sohu.com Inc.

Ten episodes from the current season of “SNL” — the show’s 39th — are available online now, the Associated Press reports. Future episodes will be available sans subtitles each Monday after airing in the United States. A version with Chinese subtitles and explanations of cultural references will be available  the following Saturday evening.

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China has been the butt of many jokes on the show, but Sohu Chairman and CEO Charles Zhang said that he does not anticipate a backlash.

“Things that are controversial in America are probably not controversial in China,” Zhang said. “And this talk show is in the spirit of fun and humor. I don’t think there will be any problem.”

Films and TV shows are regularly censored in China to prevent criticism of leaders or socially sensitive content. Both are fixtures of “SNL.”

Zhang said the show could inspire Chinese companies to produce programs with similar formats, though they probably won’t embrace satire because of government restrictions.

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China does not allow the majority of its cable operators to carry foreign channels, but there is more freedom online.

Sohu Video offers hit American shows like “The Big Bang Theory” along with Japanese animated series.

Zhang said “SNL” was cheaper per episode for his company than a U.S. drama series.