China to Limit TV Dramas to 40 Episodes

After months of consideration, China’s media regulators have finally decided on shortening the length of Chinese television dramas.

The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), the main agency that overlooks the country’s broadcasting entities, announced this month that several new regulations have been placed on television dramas, effectively immediately. One regulation is that television dramas are not allowed to exceed 40 episodes. Another regulation puts a limit on how much actors can be paid for their roles.

Over the years, the Chinese television industry has seen a jump in television dramas with exceedingly long lengths, averaging at least 50 episodes per show. Most of these extra episodes act as filler to fill up the runtime.

Regulators hope that this new restriction will help improve the quality of TV dramas.

A discussion on shortening television drama lengths was first put on the table in September 2019, when an insider leaked to the press that the agency was considering on shortening drama lengths to 40 episodes.

Netizens are divided over the new regulations, though many support the new rule. Despite long dramas such as the 73-episode The Story of Minglan <知否?知否?应是绿肥红瘦> and the 70-episode Story of Yanxi Palace <延禧攻略> have found success in the last few years, length was never a contributor to a drama’s popularity. Hit series like 1998’s My Fair Princess <還珠格格> had only 24 episodes and 2011’s Scarlet Heart <步步惊心> had only 35.

The new regulation, which will be put into action immediately, may affect dramas that are already in production or waiting for broadcast this year, including Huang Xiaoming’s (黄晓明) Winter Begonia <鬓边不是海棠红>, Zanilia Zhao’s (赵丽颖) Legend of Fei <有翡>, and Yang Mi’s (杨幂) Thank You Doctor <谢谢你医生>, all with over 40 episodes.


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. China dramas are unnecessarily draggy and long. I always felt sorry for the actors having to take on the projects.

    I dont think there would be any stopping productions from splitting them into different series though.

    1. @megamiaow yep, they already combat this by doing season atm, like the western tv series but crappier (crappier because 1- it’s so much longer than the western counter part, and 2 – they have absolutely no idea on how to do season -.- 3 – didn’t help with the fillers >_< 4 – by the time they are done, which tend to be 2 seasons, we are back on the 80eps count =_=)

  2. Tbqh, good thing about those dramas on limbo. Sorry but ZLY’s series is always nortoriously long, same with Yu Zheng’s series. So it’s good that they are in limbo so they have to cut down and be concentrated. Hooray for the new rule

    1. @littlefish Aside from Yu Zheng’s Yanxi Palace, nothing else was worthy to be long. Although I liked the show they could still cut it 10-20 episodes shorter, some parts are draggy too.

      Minglan was boring as hell though, but the fans wanted that drama to be even longer. It’s crazy that some fans really do want these long dramas with 90% boring fillers. I’m glad there’s a rule now to regulate.

  3. My only concern is how this will work with actors’ time schedule and pay. At least before, people set longer lengths to get the most bang out of the buck of the crew and for advertising revenue. Now that the lengths are shorter, but actors’ may be needed for a longer period of time, I’m thinking a lot of original cast might not make it into second season. Or the series will be postponed indefinitely until the actors are free to film. But as far as storyline is concerned, I think this is a good thing. Shorter seasons mean they have to make every episode count and it has to be engaging enough to run a second season. My fear, though, is that this will lead to something like Western shows where there’s never an ending. Production just stops because there’s not enough interest.

  4. Best news ever. Oh Gah! Princess Pearl was only 24 episodes?? I used to thought that was one of the longest series ever! Lol, that’s cuz I watched the entire thing on VHS without skipping a single minute.
    Always wondered how I survived that as a child. That’s because it was only 24 episodes. Also, it was actually not draggy at all after seeing how terrible dramas today are.

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