China Central Television (CCTV), the mainland's largest broadcaster, is expected to boost income from its annual auction of advertising airtime slots at least 10 per cent to 5.8 billion yuan next month compared with last year. The company operates under a full market mechanism by selling airtime to advertisers to fund its competition with provincial television channels such as Hunan Satellite Television, the producer of the mainland's hottest variety show, Super Girl Voice. For the first time, CCTV will be offering advertisers a cross-media deal that includes traditional television airtime, the CCTV.com website and the China Television Daily newspaper. 'We do want to help our clients build up their branding in a three-dimensional way,' Hongbo Xia, director of the CCTV advertising department, said in an interview published on CCTV.com. 'While we can deliver the message across the nation through our television channels, by using CCTV.com, we can let our audience directly interact with brands.' Mr Xia said the new strategy will help advertisers build their brands before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The state-owned broadcaster told advertisers attending a roadshow in the build-up to the mid-November auction that CCTV will leverage on its authority in news programmes to help boost brand awareness among consumers. Television stations tapped more than 80 per cent of mainland advertising revenue in the second quarter, media research firm AC Nielsen data showed. CCTV attracts about 36 per cent of viewers across China, dominating the market in the north where it has a more than 50 per cent share and trailing competitors such as TVB Jade in the south, according to industry data. Global personal-care brand Procter & Gamble has the highest advertising placement budget on CCTV and has committed to spending 385.15 million yuan this year with the broadcaster. TVB's first mainland move Television Broadcasts (TVB), the largest Hong Kong television broadcaster, is banking on its first co-production project with CCTV to boost its advertising dollars next year. The two companies are co-producing a 60-episode television drama series, The Legendary Era, which celebrates the 10th anniversary of China's takeover of Hong Kong and stars popular TVB female artists such as Sheren Tang Shui-man, Charmaine Sheh Sze-man and Hsuan Jessica Hester. The series is expected to start showing in July and be aired simultaneously over three months on TVB's Chinese-language Jade Channel and a CCTV channel. The project has attracted many advertisers keen to be associated with TVB's first move into the mainland market and to promote their products to the expected audience of more than 100 million. 'The response from advertisers has been very hot for sponsorship and for product placement promotion,' Leung Kin-wah, TVB sales and marketing controller, told Media Eye. The company is still finalising the list of sponsors, who will help fund the production and display their logos after the show. BNP Paribas Peregrine said the product placement rate card for The Legendary Era is higher than the standard local rate card. RUmour mill flat out Market rumours are spreading over the direction of Richard Li Tzar-kai's latest but smallest investment, the Chinese-language financial daily Hong Kong Economic Journal, with speculation divided over whether the paper will launch a free sheet or be transformed into a mass-market publication. 'We don't comment on market speculation,' said a Journal source. The Journal is strengthening its sales team with the addition of former Apple Daily deputy head of sales Alan Yu. 'It will be much easier to sell the advertising space of a financial daily than of mass dailies that are facing tough competition from free sheets,' the source said.