SAT-ITALY 20.02.1997


The French pay-TV giant Canal Plus has denied persistent press rumors that
it is planning to sell its 6,6% stake in the Italian private TV holding
company Mediaset. The rumors started after Canal Plus announced on February
11th that they were planning to issue bonds. The president and director
general of Canal Plus, Pierre Lescure expressed satisfaction with the
operation which he defined "a refinancing operation for the next 5 years".
According to Lescure, the demand for the bonds issued was three times bigger
than the offer which shows the market interest in our strategic presence in
Mediaset. He added that the operation will be valid only when the fusion
with NetHold takes effect which will probably be by the end of April.
A Mediaset spokesman commented with satisfaction that "The statement made by
Pierre Lescure clarifies the real significance of the financial operation
undertaken by the French group which was wrongly interpreted by the press as
a signal of Canal Plus leaving Mediaset".
Market estimates are that Canal Plus's stake of 6,6% is worth around 570
billion lira (570 million DEM). The French company is the second biggest
shareholder after Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest (50,7%). It inherited the
Mediaset shares when it back in 1996 took over the pay-TV network NetHold
owned by South-African born magnate Johann Rupert who in turn bought the
Mediaset stake thanks to favorable bank loans.
Canal Plus also announced on February 11th an increase of 14% in turnover
for 1996 which amounts to 11,5 million FF. In recent weeks, Canal Plus
clearly stated that their principal interest in Italy was the pay-TV network
Telepiu. They plan to invest several hundred million lira over the next few
years to develop digital TV services in Italy. But, up till now the number
of subscribers (50,000 according to January figures) has been a disappointment.

Italian senator and media magnate Vittorio Cecchi Gori is currently involved
in negotiations with several foreign media companies who are interested in
taking a stake in his TV interests. Back in 1995, Cecchi Gori bought 2 TV
channels Telemontecarlo (TMC) and Videomusic for more than 200 billion lira
(200 million DEM). Last year he bought the broadcast TV rights for Italian
league football for 213 billion lira. He is desperately in need of fresh
cash in order to fulfill his dream to become the third competitor on the
Italian TV market after RAI and Mediaset.
According to some sources in the industry, the company Scandinavian
Broadcasting System (SBS) has expressed interest in buying a 49% stake in
TMC for an undisclosed sum. SBS is a Swedish-American media company headed
by Jan Steinbeck of which ABC/The Walt Disney Company is one of the major
shareholders. It owns several TV companies in Scandinavia (among them TV3
and TV4) but has no media interests in South Europe. There have been no
comments from SBS but according to a statement by Cecchi Gori Group "we
categorically deny rumors circulating about a selling stake in our TV channels".
Several days ago, rumors circulated that the German media giant Bertesmann
was interested in buying a stake in Cecchi Gori Group. The Italian press
reported contacts between the Swiss bank UBS (representing Cecchi Gori) and
Dresdner Bank (acting for Bertelsmann) to that effect.
A stake in Cecchi Gori's channels TMC and TMC2/Videomusic would be
especially interesting for foreign investors if two principal conditions
were met. The first is that the channels become visible throughout all of
Italy and the second is the passing of legislation for frequency distribution.

Last week, Italian media magnate Vittorio Cecchi Gori dominated all the news
headlines thanks to the exclusive coverage of the England-Italy football
game on his TV channels TMC and TMC2/Videomusic. 
Back in December, TMC bought the exclusive Italian TV rights for the World
cup qualifying match for around 10 billion lira (10 million DEM), beating
principal rivals RAI and Mediaset in the bidding process. However, only
several days before the event, the Italian public became aware of the fact
that not all of them would be able to watch the game. The reason for that is
that TMC is visible in only 78% of Italy while TMC2/Videomusic is seen in
75% of Italian households. The state TV network RAI started a "spoiling
campaign" by highlighting the fact that 4-6 million Italians would be denied
the possibility to watch the game in all its news bulletins and also lobbied
the government to force Cecchi Gori to allow RAI also to carry the game live.
The end result was that TMC and TMC2/Videomusic channels carried the game
live which was watched by nearly 12 million viewers. Several hours before
the match, Cecchi Gori decided to allow RAI to show the game, but only an
hour after the game was finished (only 500,000 viewers tuned-in). In return
he asked RAI to pay a sum it chooses (probably around 1 billion lira) for
charity causes.
It seems that at least during this year RAI will not be faced with similar
problems because they will transmit all matches of the Italian national team
except the game in Georgia on September 10th  which will be carried by
Mediaset's Canale 5. On the other hand, Cecchi Gori scored a double victory
by beating RAI and gaining credit for the upcoming Telecommunications bill
(to be passed by by end of May) which should grant his channels new
frequencies to cover the rest of Italy. 

For the fourth year running, the Italian pay-TV network Telepiu will
exclusively broadcast live the Oscar awards ceremony in the night between
March 24th and 25th starting at 02:30h. But for the first time, even TV
viewers which are not subscribers will be able to see the arrival of the
stars at the Shine Auditorium, from 02:30-03:00 h. The other part of the
Oscar ceremonies will be scrambled and viewers with the adequate decoder
will be able to see the event which will be transmitted in double audio (in
English and Italian). On March 24th, Telepiu will show a brief pre-awards
broadcast live from Los Angeles. Before the awards ceremony, at 01:00 h.
Telepiu will air a "Hollywood magic night" special. A two-hour repeat of the
Oscar awards will be shown on March 25th at 21:00 h.
All times mentioned are CET.

This spring, a special program dedicated to the estimated 4,000,000
immigrants from Africa living in Italy is set to hit the airwaves. The man
behind the project is Idris Sanneh a high-profile black journalist who has
been living in Italy for the past 20 years. The program which is tentatively
called TelePannocchia will initially be broadcast on a local TV station in
Brescia called Teletutto but it will later be carried via a  large number of
local TV stations throughout the whole of Italy. 
The talk-show program will have sport (African league soccer and athletics),
information and music aimed principally at the large immigrant community
from Africa.

In a recent interview, Robert Hersov CEO of Telepiu talked about introducing
standards for digital receivers/decoders. "At the moment there are three
principal technologies on the market - Seca (owned by Canal Plus), Irdeto
(NetHold and Kirch) and News Datacom (Murdoch). Besides them there are also
several other digital systems which are not compatible, use different access
modes, have different subscription management systems as well as different
types of encryption. The process of standardization has however started with
the introduction of European standards MPEG and DVB".

- RAI is very near to acquiring the Italian TV rights for the Giro d'Italia
bicycle race from Mediaset. Recently RAI signed a deal with Cecchi Gori
Group for dividing the World cup Alpine skiing rights in exchange for movies
from Cecchi Gori's huge movie library. The council of administration of RAI
has recently expressed interest in cooperating with principal rival Mediaset
in developing new satellite TV channels. 
- USA Networks is considering launching an Italian version of the Sci-Fi
Channel which would be part of Telepiu's DSTV digital package.
- From the end of February, Telepiu will activate two more transponders on
the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2 satellite for its digital service. These
transponders were originally reserved by NetHold. It seems Telepiu will be
broadcasting its digital package only via the HOT BIRD 2 satellite.

                                   FOR THE WEEK FEBRUARY 23-MARCH 1

Please note that from this week we will publish only information regarding
the RAI channels. All the Mediaset channels (Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4)
are now only available in digital mode via the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2 satellite.

23.II - RAI DUE, 20:50h - The hit man (USA-91), starring: Chuck Norris,
Michael Park
24.II - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Angie (USA-94), starring: Geena Davis, Stephen Rea
25.II - RAI DUE, 00:35h - Intervista (ITA-87), starring: Marcello
Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg
26.II - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Trail of tears (USA-95), starring: Katy Sagal, Pam
26.II - RAI DUE, 00:30h - L'Atlantide (ITA-92), starring: Christopher
Thompson, Anna Galliena
27.II - RAI DUE, 20:50h - V.I.Warshawski (USA-91), starring: Kathleen
Turner, Jay O'Sanders
28.II - RAI TRE, 20:45h - Mr.Majestic (USA-94), starring: Charles Bronson,
Linda Cristal
28.II - RAI UNO, 22:50h - Caro diario (ITA-93), starring: Nanni Moretti,
Renato Carpentieri
1.III - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Track of a killer (USA-95), starring: Kelly Le
Brock, James Brolin

23.II - RAI TRE, 12:10h - Alpine skiing: World cup, super G (m) from Garmisch
23.II - RAI DUE, 19:00h - Volleyball (m): Italian league, LUBE
24.II - RAI TRE, 16:40h - Tennis: ATP tournament from Milano
25.II - RAI DUE, 20:40h - Football: Italian cup, semifinals BOLOGNA-VICENZA
26.II - RAI UNO, 20:40h - Football: Italian cup, semifinals NAPOLI-INTER
28.II - RAI TRE, 16:25h - Tennis: ATP tournament from Milano
1.III - RAI TRE, 12:25h - Alpine skiing: World cup, downhill (m) from Kvitfuell
1.III - RAI TRE, 15:20h - Tennis: ATP tournament from Milano
1.III - RAI TRE, 16:50h - Basketball (w): Italian cup, final
1.III - RAI TRE, 17:30h - Volleyball (m): Italian league

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