‘The bumpy road towards network convergence in China: The case of over-the-top streaming services’, by Elaine Jing Zhao, Global Media and China 2017, 2(1): 28-42. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2059436416688698
Abstract: The decoupling of content and distribution platform has changed television irrevocably. Potential opportunities promised by the integration of telecommunications, broadcast and Internet networks means television has become a strategic highland for relevant stakeholders including industry players and state regulators. In China, network convergence has been on the state agenda since the turn of the century, but has remained stubbornly hard to move forward. This article starts with a brief overview of the state policy development in relation to the three-network convergence. It then zooms in onto the case of over-the-top streaming as a microcosm of the convergence project by examining two critical moments in its development trajectory, highlighting a short-lived early experiment in 2005 and a more recent wave of solutions since 2010. It offers a contextualised analysis of market evolution and state regulatory approaches in this space as power negotiations play out in multiple dimensions including those between the state and market, between the central and local, and between sectorial interests. By doing so, this article reveals contestations, contradictions and challenges in the state-engineered convergence project.