Chinese fans of Game of Thrones were in an uproar on Monday after Tencent Video, one of the country's biggest streaming video service providers, postponed until further notice the showing of the final episode of the hit HBO show because of a technical issue.
The delay was announced by Tencent Video, a unit of internet giant Tencent Holdings, an hour before the episode's scheduled broadcast at 9am on Monday.
Tencent Video obtained exclusive distribution rights in China for Game of Thrones in 2014 from US cable and satellite television network HBO.
"Dear users, we regret to inform you that the sixth episode of the eighth season of Game of Thrones cannot go online at the intended time due to a media transfer issue," said one of Tencent Video's official accounts on Chinese microblogging service Weibo. "We will keep you informed of the broadcast time."
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Hong Kong-listed Tencent said it had no response beyond the official comment posted on Weibo.
The delay swiftly sparked an uproar online by Chinese Game of Throne fans, including from many Tencent Video subscribers who asked for a refund from the streaming video operator. These subscribers pay 15 yuan (US$2.17) each month, or 198 yuan (US$28.66) a year, to access exclusive shows like Game of Thrones on Tencent Video.
"Who can tell me what media transfer issue is?" one subscriber complained on Weibo. "Tencent Video want us to renew membership after this?"
Some blamed the delay on the ongoing trade dispute between China and the US, while others shared their suspicion that the final episode of the show was under censorship.
Over the course of eight seasons, certain episodes of Game of Thrones have been known for showing nude scenes and plenty of violence.
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So will Chinese fans be the last people on earth to know what happened to the lead characters Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow? Not for the diehards, it seems. Pirated streams are already proliferating online in China, providing a reprieve to those with the most severe fears of missing out.
China's major internet companies are increasingly under pressure from a campaign by Beijing to clean up content in the country's cyberspace.
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the ruling Communist Party has tightened its grip on the internet and has censored pornography, gambling, fake news and political dissent, which it collectively describes as "negative information".
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That crackdown has come amid the rapid of growth of China's streaming video market, driven by a more online savvy population, explosive growth in paying subscribers and increased industry competition.
Baidu-backed iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku Tudou, controlled by Alibaba Group Holding, are in heated race to lead China's online video market. Tencent Video subscriptions increased 43 per cent year on year to 89 million in the first quarter, while iQiyi announced 96.8 million subscribers in the first quarter, up 58 per cent year on year.
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