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12 Best Chinese TV Apps to Help You Watch and Learn in 2023 (Plus One Bonus Platform)

It’s no secret that learning a new language like Mandarin Chinese takes time.

And most of us don’t have a whole lot of time to spare. For every hour you spend in class or learning online, you need to spend another hour studying and practicing.

Luckily, there’s a way to slide some vital practice time into your hectic schedule.

Use these Chinese TV apps to improve your Mandarin listening and reading skills on the bus, during your break from work, while at the gym and pretty much every situation where you have a bit of spare time and can pop in some headphones.

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1. YOUKU

youku

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

If you already spend a bit of time enjoying Chinese TV, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of or even used YOUKU before.

YOUKU is bursting at the seams with pretty much every type of video you’d ever want to watch in Mandarin. Between all of the series, films, variety shows and documentaries, there’s bound to be something you’ll love on this app.

Luckily, the app interface is in English, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something that’ll pique your interest.

2. China TV

china-tv

Price: Free

Available on: Android

China TV is a channel-based TV app. Most of the free channels are CCTV channels, which host primarily news and documentaries. Some of these channels have Chinese subtitles while others don’t have subtitles at all, so advanced learners would probably benefit the most from this app.

China TV is a handy app to have on hand because it’s fairly fast and the ads are minimal. If you feel like just casually watching a channel as you would with cable TV, this one’s worth checking out.

3. Viki

viki-rakuten

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

Viki from Rakuten is another popular streaming app that you’ve likely come across if you enjoy watching shows from Asia. In addition to Mandarin-language dramas and films, you can also find Korean, English and Japanese content.

This app is super easy to navigate if you’re not that great at reading in Chinese yet, as most of the interface is in English. Plus, just about every video has a handful of subtitle options that almost always include both English and Chinese.

4. MangoTV

mangotv

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

Mango TV International is a television app with a few extra bells and whistles, perfect for those who want a bit more of a decadent Chinese TV experience. These include a user-friendly interface, featured and recommended channels, technical support in English and Chinese and a wide variety of films, shows, clips and short videos.

Plus, the HD videos, quick loading time and simultaneous subtitles (in English and Chinese) make this a great TV app for any level of learner. But keep in mind that beginners may have a bit of difficulty with the navigation, as it’s all in 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters.

5. 鳳凰秀 (fèng huáng xiù) — Phoenix Shows

phoenix-tv

Price: Free

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

The goal of Phoenix Shows (also known as Phoenix TV or Phoenix Television) is to spread Chinese news, entertainment and sports around the world.  If you want the best resource for finding Mandarin-language news shows and broadcasts, Phoenix Shows is worth checking out for the sheer volume of coverage alone.

Advanced learners will probably get the most out of this app, as it’s entirely in Chinese with English subtitles few and far between.

6. ChinaTv

chinatv

Price: Free

Available on: Android

Not to be confused with the “China TV” app mentioned earlier, Chinatv also allows you to stream Chinese TV channels on the go. You can set the app to notify you whenever a show is about to start, so you can catch it live.

If you believe that using apps in “dark mode” is easier on the eyes, you can change the visual settings on this app as well.

7. iQIYI

iqiyi

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

Much like YOUKU, iQIYI is a haven of dramas, anime, TV and variety shows from the Asian continent. You can easily sort the shows by genre, country and language, so you don’t have to sift through the tons of videos in other languages.

It helps that the videos also come with summaries, viewer ratings and number of episodes, making it easier to determine if a show is worth your while or not.

8. ChinaTV – 中国电视

ChinaTV-中国电视

Price: Free

Available on: iOS

This is yet another confusingly-named app that’s worth checking out nonetheless. It has over 350 TV channels in Chinese, which should be more than enough to satisfy your Chinese TV cravings between your “serious” study sessions—unless you count immersing yourself in authentic Chinese TV as a serious study session.

Luckily, that gargantuan list of channels is pretty easy to manage, since the app allows you to create a custom list of your favorites.

9. LinLi TV

linli-tv

Price: Free

Available on: Android

Can’t get enough of Chinese dramas? Is the one show you’re looking for not available on other platforms? Check out this Android streaming app. (Sorry, iOS users: LinLi TV isn’t available for your device as of this writing.)

LinLi TV has all the hottest movies and dramas from Taiwan as well as mainland China. I’d say this is a good app for beginners, as the Chinese dramas come with English subtitles.

10. 电视家海外版 — TV Home Overseas Edition

tv-home-overseas-edition

Price: Free

Available on: Website | Android

Another place to stream Chinese TV live, the TV Home app is—true to its name—home to a wide variety of TV series, variety shows, newscasts and sports coverage.

Even though you’re watching on a tiny screen, the high quality of the videos will make you feel as though you’re right at home (sorry, I’ll stop the “home” puns now) lying down on the couch and surfing through channels like there’s no tomorrow.

11. Bilibili

bilibili

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

If Bilibili’s interface feels familiar, that’s because it’s essentially the Chinese version of YouTube.

Although many of the shows on here are anime-related, you can also find tons of user-generated content on a variety of topics. Many videos have multilingual subtitles, allowing you to easily adjust the videos according to your learner level.  

12. Netflix

netflix

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on: Website | iOS | Android

No list of TV streaming apps in any language would be complete without Netflix.

The app allows you to change both the audio and subtitles to any language you want if it’s available for the particular show you’re watching. You can use Chinese audio with English subtitles, English audio with Chinese subtitles and so on. Plus, the platform features content from every genre under the sun—action, comedy, romance, horror, suspense—so make sure to stock up on your popcorn!

Bonus: FluentU

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Why Use Chinese TV Apps to Learn Mandarin?

  • Watching TV shows in Mandarin can help you improve your listening skills. Because Chinese dramas, sitcoms and other shows are scripted, you can focus on your Chinese-to-English translation skills in real time. And if you watch variety shows that are unscripted, you’ll be able to practice listening to Mandarin as it’s spoken in everyday conversation.
  • If you want to watch at your own pace, TV apps make it easier. When you have to dedicate a full half-hour to sitting down in front of your TV, it’s easy to put off watching Chinese shows. But with an app, you can watch whenever you have a few minutes to spare, especially since you can pause the videos at any point and make a timestamp. This helps you boost your language skills even when you’re juggling a busy schedule.
  • You can learn a lot about Chinese culture through television. Reading books and consuming other types of Chinese media can certainly help you improve your language skills and cultural knowledge. But TV shows can put all that cultural knowledge in context and help you further strengthen what you’ve already learned.

These Chinese TV apps are useful for brushing up on your Mandarin reading and listening skills. Better yet, you can enjoy them just about anywhere!

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