Nothing to watch in your stacks of DVDs at home? Want something playing in the background as you wash the dishes or do dinner prep? Look to China’s various streaming services, which allow netizens to watch short clips or entire series hassle-free. The only disadvantage is that many of these sites are completely in Chinese, but that’s where we come in.
PPTV.com grants viewers access to live broadcasts, movies, TV shows, animated features, sports footage, and even online games. PPTV’s technology combines peer-to-peer streaming and Internet TV, so buffering speed largely depends on how many peers are available at any given time. PPTV has various Western movies from US, UK, France, and more, some of them quite obscure (Killer Elite or Red Werewolf Hunter, anyone?). However, the animated section has the excellent Sword in the Stone and Space Jam. Show highlights include Dexter, Sherlock, and NCIS.
How to use: Download and install the PPTV web browser plugin (Windows only) from the front page; it’s a box on the right with a downward-facing arrow that says “PPTV网络电视客户端下载” in blue and orange. Once you successfully install the plug-in, you can watch programs on PPTV.com (see the end of this blog post for a glossary).
2. PPS.tv (PPStream)
Not to be confused with PPTV, PPStream uses the same peer-to-peer streaming technology as its competitor, but tends to be quite a bit slower. English movies include Young Victoria, Source Code, Kung Fu Panda 2, Braveheart, The Queen, and more. PPS.tv doesn’t seem to have any English TV shows.
How to use: Simply click on the movie or TV show that you want and it’ll play right in your browser. Piece of cake.
One of the top streaming sites in China (the other being Tudou), Youku has a decent selection of Western movies and TV shows available on a pay-per-view basis. Kids’ shows include Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Disney shorts, along with Teletubbies, Transformers, and Sailor Moon. Kid-friendly movies include Ice Age 3, The Secret of Kells, and Franklin the Turtle. It costs RMB 5 to rent a movie for two days and around RMB 20 to rent a TV show for the same period (half price for members).
How to use: Click on the movie you want to play, sign up or log into the members’ area, fill in your details, then choose a payment method (online banking, Alipay, UnionPay, and more).
Owned by the same company as Youku, Tudou is one of the more reliable free streaming services. The selection of TV shows is limited, but the videos tend to buffer pretty quickly. The movie collection fares a bit better, with titles like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tangled, Monsters Inc., and more.
How to use: Just click on the video you want to watch and it will play in browser.
Note: Searching for movie or TV titles in English works some of the time, but it’s not a foolproof method. Luckily, it’s easy enough to figure out the name of your favorite show by simply going to Baidu, typing in the English title, and seeing what pops up in Chinese.
- 电视剧(dianshiju) – TV shows
- 美剧 (meiju) – American TV shows
- 电影 (dianying) – movies
- 欧美电影 (oumei dianying) – Western movies
- 好莱坞 (haolaiwu) – Hollywood movies
- 直播 (zhibo) – live broadcasts
- 动画 (donghua) – animation
- 综艺(zongyi) – variety shows
- 体育 (tiyu) – sports
- 音乐 (yinyue) – music shows
- 原创(yuanchuang) – original shows