Chinese Broadcaster's TV Upfront Takes in $752 Million

Ford Joint Venture and Local Dairy Companies Were Big Bidders

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Bidders at the CCTV auction
Bidders at the CCTV auction Credit:

Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television took in $752 million at its yearly auction of prime time advertising, with big bids coming from local dairy giants and from a joint venture between Ford and a local automaker, agencies said.

Changan Ford spent $47 million for sponsorship of "Challenge the Impossible," a reality show that tests people with tasks from Guinness World Records, according to a tally of bidders provided by Carat China. Chinese dairy companies Yili and Bright bid $27 million and $21 respectively on shows during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The one-day event Wednesday in Beijing featured bidding for some of the best airtime in 2016.

The auction by China Central Television, or CCTV, was for many years considered a gauge of China's economy, with the final sales number closely watched. CCTV has dozens of channels and programming from news to sports to entertainment.

But over the past few years the broadcaster has pre-sold more offers ahead of the bidding, making it hard to compare numbers year-on-year and judge what they say about the economy. (This year's total sales figure was roughly on par with last year's, local agency Shunfeng Communications said. There were fewer lots this time, though there were sought-after opportunities during the Olympics.)

The event has also gotten more low-profile. CCTV no longer announces the sum of its haul, leaving agencies and observers to keep count. The last time it announced an official number was in 2012, with a record $2.5 billion spent on 2013 airtime.

Some believe that China's traditional entertainment behemoth stopped announcing its final sales tallies because they would no longer reveal the impressive growth of years past. Despite CCTV's efforts to spice up its content, young people have gravitated to satellite TV, online video and mobile devices.

GroupM has forecast that CCTV's ad revenue this year will grow by just 1.5% in 2015, while internet advertising is set to expand 33%. Out of total ad spending in China, TV will account for around 43% of ad spending in China this year, down from 60% five years ago, GroupM says. Meanwhile, internet advertising has grown rapidly; it's expected to account for nearly 38% of ad spending this year, compared to 11% in 2010.

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