The country's first national Internet TV was launched yesterday by China Central Television (CCTV) - the national broadcaster - in the latest foray into new media by traditional media.
China Network Television (CNTV.cn) offers programs on news, sports and entertainment as well as an online community network and video-on-demand services.
Xiyou serves as an online community where users can upload videos and communicate with each other while Bugu provides video services including live online broadcasts, video on demand, and round-the-clock replays.
CNTV aims to offer web broadcasting of all programs from CCTV's 20 channels, or about 750 hours of programming each day. Besides, it will endeavor to compile 400,000 hours of programs made by CCTV over the years to establish an "online museum of moving images".
With five overseas mirror sites, CNTV covers Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Russia.
The website, which reportedly received 200 million yuan ($29.4 million) in government investment, is expected to generate stiff competition to popular domestic sites and some mainstream media as well.
CCTV's move comes after recent government efforts to shut down more than 500 file- and video-sharing websites for pirated and porn content.
The crackdown followed a regulation issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the Ministry of Information Industry in December last year, requiring video websites in China to obtain a government license. The applicants must be either State-owned or State-controlled companies.
More than 400 Internet users posted comments in the first 90 minutes after CNTV opened yesterday.
"It is brilliant that I can watch free CCTV programs online at any time in my Nottingham apartment," Lin Ying, a 27-year-old Chinese woman who has lived in Britain for three years, told China Daily yesterday.
"I bet its quality will be better than other domestic video websites, " Lin said, adding that she looks forward to the upcoming Spring Festival gala to be broadcast by CNTV.
"CCTV program services outside the country have encountered many limitations due to business reasons," Wu Chunyong, the chief editor of SARFT.cn, said yesterday.
They had to depend on satellite and cable in other countries but the Internet TV station cuts down costs substantially because it only needs some servers," he said.
Yu Guoming, vice-dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Renmin University of China, had some advice on programming for CNTV: "It should not rely on simply transferring programs from TV channels."
He said CNTV.cn should try to provide more links for grassroots users, and encourage them to get involved in "video production" through digital cameras and mobile phones.
"About 20 percent of youngsters prefer watching TV programs online according to our research," he said.
Mainstream media must expand their reach to new media to attract more viewers, said Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, at the launch of the website.
Xinhua contributed to the story