SAT-ITALY 11.04.1997


The first thematic cable-only TV channel in Italy has started broadcasting
on April 2nd. TV Language or TVL for short is primarily intended for those
viewers who want to learn English. The channel does not show language
courses as one would expect, but in fact broadcasts cartoons, movies,
documentaries, talk-show programs in English. TVL is a joint project between
state telecommunications operator Stream (Stet) and Giunti Multimedia and
aims to offer an interactive service. In fact, from next November, all
subscribers will be able to actively participate thanks to the fiber-optic
cable network. 
Currently, TVL broadcasts 5 hours of programs which are repeated several
times during 24 hours. Subscribers in 19 larger Italian cities (including
Rome, Milan, Naples, Bologna and Trieste) can watch TVL and their are plans
that by the end of the year 2001, more than 10 million households will be
able to receive the service. The monthly subscription fee costs 5 DEM and
initially the decoder is offered free.

The battle for the broadcast TV rights for Italian league football is after
all to go on. It seems that the Serie A and Serie B clubs are not satisfied
with the agreement reached last week between RAI and Cecchi Gori Group which
would have seen them divide the TV rights among them. During an assembly,
the league teams (Lega Calcio) have decided that RAI did not have the right
to cede part of the rights to Cecchi Gori's television channels TMC and
TMC2/Videomusic. This problem can be overcome if an additional sum (around
100 million DEM) is paid to the Lega Calcio. RAI has already said that they
have no intentions of paying more than the agreed sum (191 million DEM) for
the TV rights while Cecchi Gori Group has offered only 7 million DEM a year.
Additionaly, they have promised to offer at least 13 million DEM for an
additional 13 Italian cup games for the season 1997/98 and 18 million DEM
for the next season.
In the past days, Silvio Berlusconi's TV holding company Mediaset has been
putting pressure on the Lega Calcio in order to stop its principal rivals,
RAI and Cecchi Gori from obtaining the TV rights in question. Mediaset has
also been asking Lega Calcio to put on the market the other matches of the
Italian cup as well as live broadcasts of a Serie A game on Saturday night.
For such a package, Mediaset would be prepared to pay several tens of
million DEM.
A second assembly meeting has been called for April 15th, but it is not
clear if a decision can be reached at that time.  

After months of negotiations, the Italian electronics giant Olivetti and
France Telecom have signed an alliance. The French telecommunications
operator, which is the 4th largest in the world, will buy a 49% stake in the
private telecommunications provider Infostrada. The company was founded in
in 1995 and offers voice and data services as well as Internet connections.
The current shareholding structure of Infostrada is as follows: Olivetti
(67%) and Bell Atlantic (33%). The deal does not mean that the shareholding
structure will be closed, but it is still open to other major players in the
telecommunications field.
According to an official statement, there is a strong possibility that
France Telecom's international partners, Deutsche Telekom and Sprint will
join Infostrada. In fact, all three companies have some time ago founded the
global telecommunications operator Global One. The FT/Olivetti deal has
already been defined as "one of the most important European initiatives in
the telecommunication sector". The long-term plans of development of
Infostrada will include investments of more than 2000 million DEM in the
next five years. Infostrada will also become the Italian distributor of
Global One's products and services.

The CEO of the state telecommunication operator Stet, Tomaso Tommasi di
Vignano, has confirmed his company's plans to continue cabling up Italy. Di
Vignano has also said that Stet's multimedia subsidiary, Stream has no
intentions of producing its own programs or for gathering publicity and
added "We have started contacts with all the principal TV players in Italy
and with foreign companies with experience in pay-TV". Stream will continue
with previous plans to continue cabling up Italy, but will keep an open eye
to developments in the TV market. 
According to an official statement published on April 2nd, the Italian
private TV holding company Mediaset has reported revenues of 445-450 million
DEM for 1996, which is more or less the same result as a year earlier (454,6
million DEM). The Italian daily "Corriere della Sera" has reported that the
U.S. based bank Goldman Sachs forecasts that Mediaset's profits are set for
a downturn if its terrestrial TV channel Rete 4 will have to switch to
satellite only broadcasts as proposed in the new Telecommunications bill.
The principal shareholder of Mediaset, Italian media magnate Silvio
Berlusconi last year said that if the Telecommunication bill passes in the
Parliament he is set to loose 200 million DEM this year with revenues of
around 600 million DEM.

According to an article published in the Italian daily "Corriere della
Sera", the German media magnate Leo Kirch, besides mounting debts due to the
start of the digital DF-1 package, is also in financial problems in Italy.
Kirch is one of the smaller shareholders in the Berlusconi dominated TV
holding company Mediaset which operates the private TV channels Italia 1,
Rete 4 and Canale 5. The German magnate several years ago took a loan of
around 130 million DEM from Silvio Berlusconi's company Fininvest which was
used to finance Kirch entry (through a holding company, Pay TV Beteiligungs)
into Mediaset. 
The loan was supposed to be returned by March 31st but this date came and
went. A spokesman for the Italian company said that "We have already
contacted Kirch in order to find a solution". This is a very delicate
situation for Kirch and its not a surprise that rumors circulated recently,
which were promptly denied, that Kirch is seriously examining the
possibility of selling his 5,4% stake in Mediaset.
It seems that there is going to be a single digital platform in Italy in
which all the major media players will take part. That is the probable
result of negotiations currently taking place among the principal political
parties concerning the passage of the new Telecommunications bill in the
Parliament. A single digital platform would also resolve the impasse on the
status of Telepiu, ie. for how much more time can the pay-TV network
continue to broadcast via its terrestrial transmitters before switching to
satellite-only broadcasts.
A single digital platform could include the principal broadcasters such as
RAI, Mediaset and Cecchi Gori as well as Telepiu/Canal Plus and Stet. Canal
Plus which is in fact the major shareholder of Telepiu needs Italian
partners in order for the pay-TV service to succeed. Mediaset already has
10% of Telepiu and an agreement with RAI and Cecchi Gori is very near. The
only uncertainty is the position of state telecommunications operator Stet.
Through its multimedia subsidiary Stream, Stet has embarked on an ambitious
plan of cabling up Italy using modern fiber-optic cable technology. The cost
of the operation is estimated at around 50,000 million DEM. As a potential
partner, it is interesting from a financial point of view since it reported
increased profits of 20% during 1996. Also it offers its "know-how" in the
area of cable television (as well as a growing cable network) and it has
leased transponders on the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2 satellite. The big problem is
that Stet sees itself as the logical "carrier" of the Italian digital
platform, a role already occupied in part by Telepiu/Canal Plus. 

Televideo, the teletext service of Italian state television RAI is this year
celebrating its 13th year. According to a recent survey, Televideo is the
most read news service in Italy with 18,5 million regular readers (36,8% of
the adult population) which consult its services several times a week. A
huge 82,3% of viewers said they were satisfied with Televideo. The most
popular pages are those devoted to TV programs, Latest news, Sports, Weather
and other news.

- Telecom Italia has recently signed an agreement with Euphon for jointly
providing a videoconference service via satellite for Italian companies. By
using the Business Television service, interested companies can connect
(video and audio) all of their local representatives throughout the country.

                                   FOR THE WEEK APRIL 13-19 

13.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Blind side (USA-93), starring: Rebecca de Mornay,
Ron Silver
14.IV - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Getting even with Dad (USA-94), starring: Macaulay
Caulkin, Ted Danson
17.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Cuore cattivo (ITA-95), starring: Kim Rossi
Stuart, Cecilia Genovese
18.IV - RAI TRE, 20:45h - Sabotage (USA-96), starring: Richard Coulter, Tim
19.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Midnight heat (USA-95), starring: Tim Matheson,
Mimi Craven

13.IV - RAI DUE, 13:25h - Formula 1: GP Argentina, heats
13.IV - RAI DUE, 16:30h - Basketball: Italian league, quarterfinals
13.IV - RAI DUE, 17:30h - Formula 1: GP Argentina
16.IV - RAI TRE, 16:30h - Basketball: MASH VERONA-REAL MADRID
18.IV - RAI TRE, 16:35h - Volleyball (w): Italian league 
19.IV - RAI TRE, 16:00h - Volleyball: Italian league, quarterfinals
19.IV - RAI TRE, 00:05h - Box: World title fight, superfly CASTIGLIONE-SUVATCHAI

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