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'The Simpsons' Will Soon Be Available for Online Streaming... in China

Fox and one of China's leading online video platforms have struck a deal to stream the show in China for the first time.
September 8, 2014, 7:05pm
Image: Fox.com

America is finally repaying China for those pandas they gave us in the 70s: The Simpsons, the culmination and fullest realization of American culture, will be available for streaming in the People's Republic, completing the Simpson's infiltration of both the globe and the digital realm.

Variety reports that Fox and one of China's leading online video platforms, Sohu Video, have reached an agreement that will allow The Simpsons to be aired—or at least streamed online—in China for the first time. Sohu Video is also bringing SNL and the BBC on demand to the world's most populous country.

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Rather than be subjected to dubbing, which frankly makes at least the French version pretty hard to watch, the Sino-Simpsons will have Mandarin subtitles. I can't help but wonder how well a show that's so steeped in American culture will fare in a country that has, for so long, been restrictive about how much American culture it lets in.

Then again, the French people I know like it, and it's not like I got all the references when I started watching the show as a kid. Even if all episodes that reference China are censored from being aired, this is some hardcore, distilled American culture getting exported here.

The Simpsons has been to streaming TV what the Beatles were to iTunes for so long—the pinnacle of the form that was too vital and profitable on its own to deign to take part in the digital age. The Simpsons sold DVDs, the Beatles sold physical albums.

But just as the Fab Four gave in to iTunes—and someday will give in to Spotify—The Simpsons is giving in to streaming, with the entire archive about to be online via FXX's "Simpsons World" this October.

Still, the show is tied to Old Media, as the service is only available to authenticated FX users, which is to say cable subscribers, leaving cord-cutting Netflix users to sift through pixelated Bulgaria-hosted versions of the older episodes and the most recently broadcast episodes on Hulu.

The specifics of the Fox-Sohu deal, such as the amount of money exchanged, and how many of the episodes will be available in China, have yet to be revealed. If Fox Broadcasting emails me back, I'll update.

But what's clear is that Chinese viewers will at least be getting the newest episodes, which start on September 28. If the archives make their way over, I hope Chinese viewers are spared that episode where Homer dresses up like a panda—not because it's culturally inappropriate, but just because it was terrible.