China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has reportedly ordered online broadcasts of the new version of Water Margin to be halted, and directed all major websites to remove all episodes of the series from their sites by 6 PM today. A spokesperson for Sunshine Media, a subsidiary of Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq: SNDA) and the online rights agent for Water Margin, said that the company had not received any notice on the matter, and declined to make any further comment.
Sunshine Media issued a statement yesterday saying that while it understood that the producers and satellite broadcasters of the series hoped for higher ratings, it would continue to abide strictly by the letter of the agreement, entitled "Partnership Agreement for Online Rebroadcast Rights to the new Water Margin series," that it had previously signed with the relevant companies, and that if new media platforms that had licensed rights to the program should broadcast the program online as agreed, Sunshine Media would be powerless to stop them.
Television broadcaster reaction to the online rebroadcasting of Water Margin has reportedly been fierce, with Anhui Satellite TV announcing that it would cancel its purchase of rights to the program. A spokesperson for Anhui Satellite TV said that the company had "spend tens of millions on the rights to the new show," and that "if websites provide a complete version before us, it will decimate our viewership." Tianjin Satellite TV also issued a statement saying that if unauthorized broadcasts of the program continued, it would join with the other three satellite broadcasters of the program to negotiate with the distributor of Water Margin for an earlier broadcast. Shandong Satellite said that such broadcasts were in violation of the companies' agreement: "When it was announced in 2010 that there would be a joint satellite broadcast of the new Water Margin, it was clearly stipulated that broadcasts over the internet and other new media must take place after the satellite broadcast, and that daily postings of new videos must take place after the episodes had aired on television." The statement said that these conditions were listed in the supplementary agreement.