SAT-ITALY (ITALIAN SATELLITE AND MEDIA NEWS) - 28 February 1997
ITALIAN GOVERNMENT TO SUBSIDIZE DIGITAL TV
The Italian government is considering a proposal which, if approved could
mean an explosion in sales of digital satellite receivers. According to this
government initiative, viewers who would be ready to exchange their existing
terrestrial TV aerials for satellite aerials together with the new digital
satellite receivers, would receive a significant discount for their
acquisition. Today, a satellite receiving system which includes a digital
receiver/decoder costs more than 1,500 DEM in Italy and with this price,
only a minority of viewers is able to afford such a system.
This initiative is motivated principally by the fact that the new
Telecommunications bill has yet to be approved by Parliament. The sticking
point seems to be the decision to force Mediaset to give up one of its 3
terrestrial channels or to make it a satellite-only channel and the
uncertain future of RAI's third channel which is to become either a regional
network or a satellite-only channel. Additionally, the government has
recently been under pressure by media magnate Vittorio Cecchi Gori who is
demanding a rapid decision on granting new terrestrial TV licenses.
It seems that the government's new initiative could resolve three problems
at once. Since all the principal Italian TV networks already broadcast in
digital via satellite (RAI Uno, RAI Due, RAI Tre, Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete
4, TMC and TMC2/Videomusic), the question of frequencies and channels could
be resolved by motivating viewers to switch from terrestrial to satellite
reception. Secondly, this initiative could help the development of digital
TV industry by forcing a drastic price cut and finally could also resolve
the environment problem of dozens of terrestrial aerials on every house.
Estimates are that there are currently more than a million Italians with
satellite reception equipment, but only a few (around 50,000) possess the
new digital satellite receivers.
CECCHI GORI STILL IN DEBT
Italian media magnate Vittorio Cecchi Gori has recently been in the news
headlines thanks to several successes in obtaining the Italian TV rights to
many important football events. However, the situation at Cecchi Gori's HQ
is far from calm. It seems that one of his biggest problems is of financial
nature. A majority of the capital of his TMC television network (besides the
10% held by RAI) is in the hands of Banca di Roma which financed Cecchi
Gori's acquisition of TMC and Videomusic two years ago. He has still to
repay around 30 million DEM out of a total of 75 million DEM. But there is
still the debt of the TV stations which he inherited when he took them over
and TMC's debt amounts to another 30 million DEM. Cecchi Gori has also
questioned the asking price for TMC which he paid to the previous owners
Ferruzzi (Compart) which amounted to 33 million DEM and is asking for a
revision of the contract.
GIRO D'ITALIA RACE ON RAI
One of the most important sports events in Italy is set to return to state
broadcaster RAI. After being broadcast for five consecutive years by private
network Mediaset, the Giro d'Italia bicycle race will be carried live by RAI
from 1998 (this year it will still be on Mediaset). RAI has signed a
three-year contract with the race's organizer RCS which is estimated to be
worth around 42 million DEM (13 for the first, 14 for the second and 15 for
the third year). The package also includes a number of other bicycle races
throughout Italy as well as the New Years slalom skiing event in Sestriere.
Silvio Berlusconi's TV holding company Mediaset had previously tried to make
a deal for this years rights in exchange for some of the Formula 1 races.
But RAI's counter-offer included the Giro, movie rights worth 20 million DEM
plus a game of the national football team in exchange for the Formula 1
races. That was to much for Mediaset so they were left with this years
edition of th Giro d'Italia.
Estimates are that RAI will receive revenues of up to 2-3 million DEM after
selling the international TV rights for the bicycle race.
Principal sporting events and networks that will carry them
RAI - Formula 1, Motoracing GP, Davis Cup Tennis, ATP Milano, Alpine skiing,
MEDIASET - Giro d'Italia, Champions league football
TMC - NBA Basketball, Spanish league football, Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing,
Italian league football (highlights)
TELEPIU - Italian league football (live), Italian league basketball,
European basketball cups, Italian league volleyball, European volleyball
cups, 3 Grand-Slam tennis tournaments, Rugby, NBA Basketball (live), Golf,
English league football, Bundesliga
Language Television or TVL is a new cable-only TV channel which is set to
premiere on April 2nd on the cable systems operated by
state-telecommunications operator Stream. The project of a thematic TV
channel devoted to English language studies is led by Albino Bertoletti,
director of Milan-based company Giunti Multimedia. Initially, the channel
will broadcast 5 hours a day and its programming will be based on an
interesting concept: learning English by using personalized words. There
will be cookery programs for housewives, business news for managers, sports
programs for teenagers, etc. The majority of the programs will be of U.S.
origin. There will also be cartoons and arts programs.
TVL will be broadcast on cable as part of a package of channels called Blu
Stream. It includes Il Canale Viaggi, EBN, Eurosport and costs around 10 DEM
a month (the decoder for the first year is free). Stream's cable network
currently covers 19 cities throughout Italy, with Napoli, Palermo and Bari
for example being 50% cabled-up.
DIGITAL HELPS ANALOG SALES
One of the results of the massive advertising campaign that pay-TV network
Telepiu is currently conducting in Italy is an increase in sales of
satellite systems which include analog receivers. The latest figures show
that there are currently more than one million satellite dishes installed,
while the number of subscribers to the digital service Telepiu Satellite is
twenty times lower.
All of this is good news for EUTELSAT and business for them has never been
better. The commercial director of EUTELSAT, Giuliano Beretta recently
signed the first contract for Internet distribution via satellite with
Swedish telecommunications giant Telia Svenska Cable.
RAI INTERNATIONAL SCORES WITH LIVE FOOTBALL
As we reported in previous weeks, RAI International is scoring a big success
with audiences thanks to its new Sunday afternoon program "La giostra del
gol". Viewers from Sidney to Tokyo, from Toronto to Caracas are treated to a
feast of live goals from the Italian football league games. The channel
also carries live coverage of the Italian national team when it plays at
home. However, this new program is available only to viewers (excluding
those in Europe and Africa) who pay a 10 dollar-a-month subscription fee.
Subscribers were recently also able to watch live coverage of the San Remo
music festival. There are plans to introduce more Italian movies,
information and entertainment programming which would also be subtitled in
English and Spanish. One of the most frequent requests made by viewers is
for mor programs devoted to Italian cookery.
The new RAI department in charge of education programming, RAI Educational
is set to debut on March 3rd. RAI Educational will broadcast three programs
during the morning hours, early afternoon and late night hours, from Monday
to Friday, on the 3 existing RAI channels. The director of the new venture
is Federico Sciano and he will administer a budget of of around 25 million
DEM which is equal to 1% of revenues from the TV license fee. He hopes to
capture an audience share of around 10-15% - the viewers that only watch the
news and other programs in the prime-time segment.
RAI Educational will be a multimedial network. Its programs will
additionally be broadcast not only via RAI's terrestrial channels, but also
via satellite (in form of a thematic channel dedicated to schools and
Universities), home-video, CD-Rom, radio and of course - the Internet.
RAI Educational is the first of RAI's several new thematic satellite
channels which will start broadcasting this summer via the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD
2 satellite. A dedicated childrens channel as well as a religious channel
are also in the works.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- The administrative council of the TV holding company Mediaset has decided,
for the third time running, to delay the acquisition of Fininvest's (which
is the mother company of Mediaset) 10% stake in pay-TV network Telepiu.
Market estimates are that this share is worth around 200 million DEM.
- According to a recent study, sales of satellite dishes and decoders are on
the increase in Rome. They were among the most popular items sold 1996,
besides personal computers and CD-Roms.
- All of the Mediaset TV channels have introduced a ratings system which is
represented by three colored circles (green, yellow and red) shown at the
beginning of each movie or TV series. Green shows that the program is for
all audiences while red means the program is not recommended for children.
- RAI will start digital audio broadcasts (DAB) by the year 1999
MORE ITALIAN PRODUCTIONS ON MEDIASET AND RAI
The private Italian TV holding company Mediaset has signed an agreement with
APT, the Italian Association of Television Producers. This three-year
contract stipulates that Mediaset will invest 10% of revenue from publicity
into Italian and European productions and co-productions. For the first
year, the value will be 240-250 million DEM and out of this sum, 80% will be
reserved for fiction and movies while the rest will go to the production of
According to Mediaset, this means that they are ready to invest into Italian
and European programming but are against introducing program quotas as
stipulated in article 9 of the new Telecommunications bill which is
currently being discussed in Parliament. They say that program quotas mean a
decrease in quality of the final product. The contract between APT and
Mediaset is the first of its kind in Italy.
On the other hand, RAI has announced that it plans to invest 20% of revenues
(more than double the current amount) from license fees over the next three
years into production of movies and series. Currently 60% of the movies and
series transmitted on the RAI channels is of foreign origin and the new
administrative council has promised to completely change this anomaly by
1999 in favour of programming of Italian and European origin.
PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS ON ITALIAN SAT-TV CHANNELS
FOR THE WEEK MARCH 2-8
2.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - La bella vita (ITA-94), starring: Sabrina Ferilli,
3.III - RAI UNO, 20:50h - When a man loves a woman (USA-94), starring: Meg
Ryan, Andy Garcia
4.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Fatal instinct (USA-93), starring: Armand Assante,
Sean Young, Sherilyn Fenn
4.III - RAI DUE, 00:25h - E la nave va (ITA-83), starring: Freddie Jones,
5.III - RAI UNO, 20:50h - When friendship kills (USA-96), starring: Linda
Carter, Katie Wright
5.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - The computer wore tennis shoes (USA-95), starring:
6.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Un eroe borghese (ITA-94), starring: Michele
Placido, Fabrizio Bentivoglio
7.III - RAI TRE, 20:40h - Passenger 57 (USA-92), starring: Wesley Snipes,
7.III - RAI UNO, 22:50h - Rocky (USA-76), starring: Sylvester Stallone,
8.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Innocent victims (USA-95), starring: Ricky
Shroeder, Howard Hesseman
2.III - RAI TRE, 12:25h - Alpine skiing: World cup, super G (m) from Kvitfjell
2.III - RAI TRE, 18:00h - Tennis: ATP indoor tournament from Milano
2.III - RAI DUE, 19:00h - Basketball: Italian league, CAGIVA VARESE-KINDER
7.III - RAI DUE, 18:25h - Alpine skiing: World cup, special slalom (w) from
7.III - RAI TRE, 22:00h - Alpine skiing: World cup, special slalom (w) from
7.III - RAI TRE, 01:25h - Alpine skiing: World cup, super G (m)
8.III - RAI TRE, 15:25h - Volleyball: Italian league, COLMARK BRESCIA-GABECA
8.III - RAI TRE, 18:00h - Athletics: Indoor World Championships from Paris
8.III - RAI DUE, 23:15h - Formula 1: Australian GP, heats
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