Netflix CEO Reed Hastings loves his company’s dark animated comedy “BoJack Horseman,” but Chinese censors appear less enthusiastic. The series has been pulled after only a few days of availability in the country.
While Netflix doesn’t operate in China, the streaming powerhouse signed a deal in April to license its content to iQiyi, China’s biggest streaming service. The deal was an important step for Netflix, which has struggled to crack the tricky Chinese market.
Last month at the Code conference, Hastings said Netflix had previously misjudged its chances of making Netflix work in China as a standalone entity, at least in the near term.
“We had our natural optimism that was slowly beat down,” he said. And when asked late last year about Netflix’s chances to enter China, he responded frankly: “It doesn’t look good.” Netflix needed a workaround.
That workaround was this deal with iQiyi, made in April, which was meant to bring Netflix’s original shows and movies into the country.
One of those titles was “BoJack Horseman,” which follows a has-been sitcom star (and half-horse), and satirizes Hollywood and celebrity worship. In 2015, Hastings told CNBC that “BoJack Horseman” was his favorite original series, beating out its classic hits like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” He even wore a BoJack sweater once on an earnings call.
But something in BoJack seems to have irked the censors when it began to show in China this month.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that all three available episodes of “BoJack Horseman,” which began streaming on iQiyi just a few days ago, had been pulled. “Adjustments need to be made to the content,” iQiyi said to Bloomberg.
While “BoJack Horseman” is edgy comedy, this news leaves an open question about how other Netflix originals will fare at the hands of Chinese censors. “Making a Murderer,” which fundamentally questions a governmental system, is still up, according to Bloomberg. And “Stranger Things” is coming soon.