China Central Television's (CCTV) sports channel reaped a bonanza from the World Cup, which nearly four billion people watched, and its chief said its monopoly was the key to its wealth. Sports director Ma Guoli told the Southern Weekend that, between May 31 and June 30, the channel's ratings rose from an average of 1.5 to 2 per cent of the audience to 15 to 20 per cent, with nearly four billion watching the 64 games it broadcast live. One percentage point of viewers is equivalent to 12 million people. CCTV advertising revenue for the World Cup was 400 million yuan (about HK$374.8 million), compared with the 207 million yuan, it paid for the broadcasting rights this year and in 2006. The sports channel's budget this year is 70 million yuan, compared with 20 million yuan in 1995. CCTV won the rights after the central government designated it as the sole legal broadcaster for the World Cup. A Hong Kong firm earlier had almost signed the deal. It had planned to re-sell the rights to individual cable and satellite stations in China. Mr Ma said negotiations had lasted four years and eight months because the two sides could not agree on a price. 'The public had to see the event and so we had to get the rights. That was the policy of the government. So FIFA [soccer's world governing body] went around in circles but in the end had to talk to us. Some newspapers call this a monopoly but I do not think so. It is the national policy. Foreign capital is banned - you call that a monopoly?' He said that city and provincial stations with sports channels had no hope of success. 'Under our present system, they have no hope. They present no threat to us. Perhaps the sports channels in Beijing and Shanghai will survive. 'With news, documentaries and soap operas, you can have many different sources. But sports is a monopoly. There is only one event. Currently, our co-operation with other stations is not bad,' he said. Mr Ma said the situation in China was better than in the United States and Europe, because the sports channel was not entirely commercial and could broadcast events that did not attract much advertising. 'But the US is a commercial society. Their sports programmes cannot satisfy the public as well as we can. Their channels do not broadcast gymnastics and very little swimming, diving, athletics or soccer outside the Olympics, because they cannot sell advertising for them. We buy the rights to such events but cannot make profit from them,' he said.