State-owned CCTV confirmed it had received bids from 245 firms totalling 14.3bn yuan for the 2011 sale, 12.5% higher than 2010 and the highest total in the 18 years the sales have been running. Analysts had forecast an annual increase of around 10%.
The bidding is thought to have been boosted by the big upcoming media events that will occur in 2012, including the summer Olympic Games.
High inflation, with CPI expected to hit 5.4% in 2011, also played a part. But while the bidding total for 2011 was the highest ever, the growth rate was below the 15-18.5% growth observed over the previous five years.
CCTV's status as China's only national broadcaster has helped to attract bids over the years, although more recent rapid growth of regional satellite channels has increased the competitiveness of the TV market.
"One of the things driving CCTV is that, as clients move to 50 cities rather than 15, no regional channel can reach them the way CCTV can," Seth Grossman, managing director of Carat China, told Reuters.
The Chinese government's decision last month to crack down on "low taste" shows that offer "excessive entertainment", such as talent contests and quizzes, could provide a further boost to the state broadcaster at the expense of regional outlets.
"Satellite channels are mainly for the broadcast of news propaganda and should expand the proportion of news, economic, cultural, science and education, children's, and documentary programming," the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television said at the time.
Data sourced from Xinhua/Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff