The 4 Best Resources for Streaming Chinese TV Online
TV streaming services open up the world of broadcast television for our learning and entertainment.
They give us access to TV that in the past we would have to travel abroad to watch.
This is especially useful for language learners who want to practice their listening skills and pick up new vocabulary in an engaging and enjoyable way.
In this post, we’ll share four of the best resources for streaming Chinese TV online and how you can curate your viewing experience beyond live TV.
The best part? Some of them are totally free to enjoy!
- 1. YouTube
- 2. Sling TV
- 3. Youku
- 4. Phoenix Television
- Bonus: FluentU
- How Streaming Chinese TV Can Teach You Mandarin
Yes, we have to include one of the biggest video websites around, don’t we? A simple search on YouTube for “Chinese TV” or “中国电视” (zhōng guó diàn shì — Chinese television) can bring up a ton of fantastic content.
From quick video clips to full episodes of Chinese dramas (the ones there legally, of course) to Chinese YouTubers doing their thing, there’s a ton of great Mandarin-language content on YouTube. There’s also quite a bit of content available in the form of video lesson plans, Chinese-learning tips and tricks, videos about Chinese culture and much, much more.
Maybe you already knew all that, but did you know that many China-based news channels live stream their own broadcasts on YouTube using the site’s “live” feature? And it’s all free. Everything’s better when it’s free.
It’s important to keep in mind that while YouTube is free and convenient, there’s no guarantee that Mandarin content will include English or even Chinese subtitles. With a little bit of searching, though, you’re sure to find the ideal content for your learning level.
- The official CCTV channel — One of the biggest public broadcasters in China and Taiwan.
- “The Jinxing Show” — China’s biggest talk show, often compared to “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
2. Sling TV
Sling Television, aptly nicknamed “a la carte TV,” is a streaming service that, like Damai Television, is available as a streaming box setup or as a Roku channel.
Their Mandarin television section boasts over 50 different channels.
Sling also offers 8-day replay, so you can catch your favorite Mandarin television shows on your time. Most of their channels offer Chinese and English subtitles as well. This streaming resource is great because you can enjoy non-Chinese channels and films as well, making this a sort of “all-in-one” selection that’s great for learning Chinese and also for watching other types of media.
Sling TV offers a free 7-day trial so you can decide whether the service is right for you. After the trial, Sling TV costs $15 a month at its most basic level.
- 凤凰卫视美洲台 (Fèng Huáng Wèi Shì Měi Zhōu Tái — Phoenix North America Channel) — One of the biggest Chinese-American channels in the United States. You can find tons of great Chinese and American content on this channel.
- 湖南卫视 (Hú Nán Wèi Shì — Hunan TV) — Tons of dramas as well as breaking news, so you can mix or choose between politics and pleasure.
优酷 (Yōu Kù — Youku) is a video hosting service from Beijing. Not only is it one of China’s biggest online video and streaming service platforms, but it could be considered the YouTube of China. In addition to awesome dramas, news and chat shows, Youku also has a user platform similar to YouTube through which members can upload their own vlogs and individual content. They even have a Virtual Reality (VR) section.
Many of the videos on Youku are short clips, making them great for binge-watching without wasting a whole day. Unless that’s your thing. We won’t judge you.
Youku is free to use and the website is entirely in Chinese, so make sure you have a good grip on hanzi or a translator ready so you can navigate the site. Many of the videos on Youku, including short clips, feature Chinese subtitles.
Again, Youku is definitely more on the video clip YouTube-ish side of live broadcasting, but you can still use it to find extremely varied content. Finding full chat shows and film broadcasts is fairly easy. Just search through the 剧集 (jù jí — “Film),” 电影 (diàn yǐng — “Drama”) and “综艺” (zōng yì — “Variety Show”) sections underneath the header.
- “如果爱” (Rú Guǒ Ai — “Love Won’t Wait”) — A self-made man struggles to help his eldest abused and grieving daughter while also navigating his own tumultuous personal life.
- “二龙湖爱情故事” (Èr Lóng Hú Ai Qíng Gù Shì — “Erlong Lake Love Story”) — A simple peasant loses his job in the city. When he returns home, things become complicated as he encounters his estranged family’s debts and gang involvement. When he decides enough is enough, everyone’s lives are changed forever.
4. Phoenix Television
鳳凰衛視控 (Fèng Huáng Wèi Shì Kòng — Phoenix Satellite TV) is the last streaming service on our list, but it’s certainly not the least. This Hong Kong-based broadcaster is one of the biggest television channels in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They produce both Cantonese- and Mandarin-language content.
Phoenix Satellite TV provides a very rich and diverse mix of programs, including news, talk shows, films, music videos and mini-series. They’re also the main Chinese broadcaster of United Nations affairs in China.
You can enjoy most of Phoenix Satellite TV’s content through their browser for a true streaming experience, all for free. This channel also offers Chinese subtitles for most of their content.
- “共同家园” (Gòng Tóng Jiā Yuán — “Common Home”) — A quick computer-animated video showcasing unique and interesting digital artwork.
- “袁隆平：做完这两件事就能退休了” (Yuán Lóng Píng: Zuò Wán Zhè Liǎng Jiàn Shì Jiù Néng Tuì Xiū Le — “Yuan Longping: I will be able to retire after these two things”) — An elderly man talks about the political atmosphere in China and the future of retirement for Chinese citizens in this brief documentary.
You can’t stream full episodes on FluentU, but the embedded learning tools and hundreds of available videos make it an excellent video-based learning resource.
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.)
How Streaming Chinese TV Can Teach You Mandarin
- It features realistic spoken Chinese for various situations. By listening to scripted or unscripted Chinese speech through all different kinds of TV shows (rather than just the fictional movies and series you find on some streaming sites), you can get the hang of how Mandarin sounds and the speed at which it’s spoken.
- You can get exposed to Mandarin spoken with different accents and dialects. Mastering listening skills and speaking skills in Chinese doesn’t just involve mastering speech speed. It requires mastering context clues, tones and the ability to listen to Mandarin speakers who may have varying accents. Watching Chinese TV can definitely help with this.
- It’s an entertaining way to practice Mandarin listening skills in your free time. Who doesn’t love vegging out with a great show and some takeout? You can get the benefit of practicing Chinese while also getting some leisure time by watching Chinese TV. And when it comes to watching live Chinese TV, you don’t even need to decide what to watch.
This is quite the selection of resources for Mandarin streaming TV!
Don’t feel too overwhelmed: Simply pick your preferred resource or channel from this list, jump on the couch and start watching a new show in Chinese.
You may find your new fave right here!
And for more entertaining Chinese content available online, check out Chinese movies you can rent on Amazon Prime and the best TV shows to learn Chinese.