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Chinese fans ponder life without Friends

Shanghai

MILLIONS of Chinese fans of the TV sitcom Friends are heartbroken, now that a video site has pulled the show beloved by millennials in China for its endearing young characters and as an English conversation resource.

Top portal Sohu had broadcast reruns of the lives of Monica, Rachel, Chandler and the gang since 2014, but abruptly stopped in April, citing only unspecified "copyright issues".

The move has touched off anguish on Chinese social media sites such as the Twitter-like Weibo, where a "Friends offline" hashtag has generated millions of posts. Many have called for Sohu to re-up on its "Friends" rights; others have offered advice on where to download pirated episodes of the Emmy-winning show, which originally aired in the US from 1994-2004.

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The sitcom, centred on a group of young New Yorkers, became a global hit through syndication, but perhaps nowhere more than in China, where it gained a following from pirated DVDs or illegal downloads before streaming rights were secured.

Millions of Chinese youngsters identify with the show and take the chance to burnish their American-style English.

Guo Yujin, a customer-service executive and long-time Friends fan, called the programme "a window through which Chinese can learn American culture". "I learned so much conversational English, things that you can't learn from books. Books only have the most boring grammar, but this is very life-like," she said. AFP