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Chinese Version of 'Saturday Night Live' in the Works

Chinese comedians will star in the new venture, produced by Michaels' Broadway Video Entertainment and Sohu.com

Sohu.com founder Zhang Chaoyang is helping to develop a Chinese version of 'Saturday Night Live.' Credit: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video Entertainment is teaming with video and search engine website Sohu.com to create a Chinese version of pioneering sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live. Though no official timetable for the project has been set, the two companies will begin assembling their cast of Chinese comedians in the coming months. A spokesperson for Broadway Video confirmed the news to Rolling Stone.

"SNL, which combines the best elements of live music and sketch comedy, will be a refreshing new option for Chinese viewers," Sohu said of the venture in a statement.

China is home to the world's largest Internet market: 649 million viewers in total. And Sohu.com has been savvy at tapping into that demand, signing a program deal last year with BBC Worldwide to bring factual and dramatic programs to the site through video-on-demand.

Though the new SNL makes sense on a business level, Wang Sixin, a professor at the Communication University of China, warns that the satirical nature of such a show could create controversy with the government. "China's Communist Party has been looking for new ways to engage with an audience because past forms of preaching are no longer suitable for today," he told Bloomberg. "What Sohu needs to be careful about, though, is finding the right balance when doing satire about social and political issues."

Last month, the American SNL celebrated its 40th anniversary with a massive three-and-a-half-hour special that featured former cast members like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin and Bill Murray.