VPN Tips for China

Best Apps to Watch English TV Shows in China 2024

As a traveler or expat, being able to watch your favorite English TV shows in China can mean the difference between sanity and depression. I mean, honestly, if you’ve ever turned on a Chinese TV you know how mind-numbingly boring their shows are. So what are the best apps or websites that will allow you to watch English TV shows in China?

Recommended Resource – NordVPN

If you’re looking for the fastest, easiest way to bypass internet censorship to watch English shows in China, the best option is NordVPN. Get connected in less than 5 minutes at lightning-fast speeds.

The reality is that you’re not going to find much quality English content on Chinese TV channels. And by “not much”, what I really mean is…nothing.

You can browse the few English channels but I promise you’ll be disappointed.

If you really want to watch quality TV in English, you’re going to have to look outside of China to do so. Here’s what we’re going to cover:

Please note that I’m biased toward premium, ad-free streaming platforms that don’t open me up to the risk of malware. I realize these mostly show western shows and are often geo-restricted, which is why I personally use and recommend NordVPN. All I have to do is connect to a VPN server in the US and…voilà…I can watch my English TV shows in China.

Almost every expat in China uses a VPN and it’s worth every penny I spend on it each year.

Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use some of these services.

Watch YouTube TV in China (United States)

Ever since YouTube TV launched in early 2019, I’ve been a subscriber. I’m able to watch, record, and stream almost all of my favorite English TV shows that air on regular cable. This includes sitcoms, movies and even sports.

Currently, YouTube TV is only available in the U.S. and even within the United States you have to choose your “home area” (i.e. the ciy/state where you technically reside).

Make sure you choose your home area wisely, because YouTube requires that you use the service from within your home area at least once every three months.

I recommend choosing a home area that corresponds to a VPN server from NordVPN, that way you can pretend to check in to that city.

YouTube TV Benefits

  • 70+ channels that includes all the major networks, sports, and news.
  • Unlimited DVR of your favorite shows that can are stored in the cloud (not your device)
  • Apps that you can use to watch YouTube TV on mobile devices, TVs, Media players and more.

YouTube TV Restrictions

  • Monthly cost: US$73/mo (yikes!)
  • Only streams U.S. content within the U.S.
  • Must check in to your “home area” once every 3 months.
  • Some networks still restrict their content on YouTube TV (CBS is notorious for this).

Watch BBC TV in China (U.K.)

If you prefer to watch British English TV shows in China, naturally you’ll turn to the BBC. They offer streaming options for their BBC iPlayer, the BBC News and, thankfully, BBC Sport.

Unlike YouTube TV, there is no monthly cost to stream BBC shows in China (or anywhere in the world for that matter). You will have to register with the site to watch shows, but it’s a free and mostly painless process.

My Take: If you like British TV or you prefer to watch more futbol (soccer) or cricket instead of American football or baseball, using the BBC to watch English TV shows in China might be a good option for you.

Stream Netflix in China

While Netflix has never been a true “one stop shop” for my favorite English content (I need my sports and sitcoms!), there is a lot here that can’t be found on either YouTube TV or BBC.

As with YouTube TV, you need both a paid account as well as a VPN to watch Netflix in China. Still, you’ll get access to thousands of shows and movies, many of which are pieces of content that you can only find on Netflix.

My Take: Netflix is ok, but honestly I get tired of their content quickly. Make sure you browse their catalogue of shows and movies before you commit to the monthly payments.

Watch Amazon Prime Video in China

Prime Video has slowly been gaining market share on Netflix, and the bonus is that if you already use Amazon services in China, Prime Video is just an addition benefit you can take advantage of to watch English TV shows in China.

Prime Video is all on-demand, with a very limited selection of live shows (which include Thursday Night Football if you’re an American who wants to watch NFL games in China). There are tons of English TV shows and movies to choose from.

My Take: Similar to Netflix, I get bored of the Prime Video library after a couple months. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, though, it’s worth seeing what they have instead of paying the monthly fee for Netflix!

Stream Hulu in China

I think of Hulu as a cross between YouTube TV and Netflix. You can choose a cheaper monthly option that only has on-demand movies and TV shows you can watch in China (with a VPN of course) OR…you can choose the live TV package that has all the on-demand content plus streaming of 60+ shows in the US.

It’s slightly cheaper than YouTube TV, but you also don’t get as much. There aren’t as many channels and there’s a limit on the amount of DVR space you can use (currently 50 hours).

My Take: If you want to do live streaming of U.S. TV shows in China, stick with YouTube TV. That is, unless there is specific content only available on Hulu that you want to watch (i.e. Fyre Fraud, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.).

Use Sling in China (US TV Shows Only)

The final option I’ll mention for now is Sling. Personally, I used this service once a while back and while it does provide options for watching English TV shows in China using a VPN, it wasn’t my favorite.

Sling has a number of confusing packages to choose from (Orange, Blue, Orange + Blue, etc.), and doesn’t offer the ability to skip ads. Still, there are a number of great add-ons, including their NBA watch package.

My Thoughts: Sling is more of an a la carte TV service, so if you’d prefer to choose exactly what you want to watch and don’t mind ads, this could be a good option for you.

Final Thoughts | Watching English TV Shows in China

I know it may seem crazy, but I really think it’s worth it to invest in your sanity while gallivanting around the globe. Yes, it costs a little money for some of these services to watch English TV shows in China.

And yes, there is a charge for the required VPNs like NordVPN in order to make these work.

But in the end, you’ll get to stay connected to “home” while also providing some much-needed entertainment along the way. Plus, with a VPN you’ll get access to everything else that is blocked in China!

Further Reading & Resources

Josh Summers

Josh is the founder of TravelChinaCheaper.com who has been living in China with his family since 2006. Over that period of time he has traveled by plane, train, car, motorcycle and even camel to explore almost every corner of the country.

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