SAT-ITALY 11.07.1997


The Italian state television network RAI has confirmed the launch of three
new thematic satellite channels which are due to start broadcasting from
September 29th via RAI' s digital transponders on the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2
satellite. The channels are to be called RAISAT 1, 2 and 3 and include a
cultural channel (broadcasting 6 hours a day of programming which will be
repeated 4 times a day), a children's channel (9-15 hours a day of programs)
and an educational service (6 hours a day, repeated also 4 times). A
"multiethnic" channel is set to follow as well as an all news radio service.
Although these new channels will broadcast in the clear (i.e. will not be
scrambled), only viewers equipped with the new digital boxes will be able to
receive them. According to some estimates, no more than 80,000 digital
receivers have been sold in Italy up to now which means that only a
restricted number of viewers will be able to watch the new channels from day
During a meeting of RAI's administrative council which was held last week in
Rome, the vicedirector general
Francesco Mengozzi suggested that the new channels be broadcast for a
certain period of time in parallel in analogue mode. According to him, there
are currently around 750,000 analogue reception systems in Italy which are
capable of receiving analogue channels from the EUTELSAT satellites and a
simulcast of the 3 channels could drastically increase the number of
potential viewers. An additional benefit would be that the analogue service
could serve to promote RAI's new digital package.
At the recent Telecommunications Summit held in Naples, Guido Vannucchi,
RAI's vicedirector in charge of new technologies and productions criticised
the simulcast proposal. According to him, "the thematic channels are by
nature digital" and the simulcasting in digital and analogue would create a
vicious circle and would serve only to confuse the consumers, because the
end result of the two transmission modes is very similar and later on it
would be hard to convince the public to buy the digital receivers. He added
that "analogue transmissions would stop the development of the digital
technology", but said that the price of digital receivers is expected to
fall significantly very soon.

As we already suggested in the past weeks, Canal Plus is set to sell its
stake in the German pay-TV channel Premiere in which it owns a 37,5% stake
to Leo Kirch. In exchange, the German media magnate will give up his 45%
stake in the Italian pay-TV network Telepiu to the French company. The deal
is expected to be signed in the next few days, and it was agreed during a
meeting of the administrative council of Canal Plus held in Rome on July 2nd. 
After the deal with Kirch is signed negotiations with RAI and Stet over
forming a single Italian digital platform will continue in earnest. Canal
Plus has said several times in the past that it has no intention in keeping
Kirch' stake in Telepiu for itself, but would rather sell the stake to
Italian partners.

In a recent interview published by the Italian daily "Corriere della Sera",
media magnate Vittorio Cecchi Gori has criticised the monopolistic position
of Canal Plus in the Italian pay-TV market. He thinks its strange that the
Italian government is helping the French media company to gain a dominant
position in the market, while at the same time Canal Plus has sacked 250
staff at Telepiu. Cecchi Gori said that he is against a single digital
platform in which Canal Plus would have a dominant role and would rather
prefer that RAI, Stet, Mediaset and Cecchi Gori Group go their own way.
Responding to questions about his own TV channels (TMC and TMC2/Videomusic),
Cecchi Gori said that, besides a TV channel which would have national
coverage (i.e. TMC), he would like to have two local TV channels for two
cities who are famous for their art and are also tourist centres. One of
them is Florence, to whom TMC2 will be primarily orientated and he said that
he is still searching for a channel that would cover the Naples area.
According to him, all options are open - from buying a channel to forming a
joint-venture with other partners.
Cecchi Gori also confirmed that the music channel Videomusic will leave the
terrestrial frequencies it shares with TMC 2 and will soon be available
exclusively on satellite.

Canal Plus has announced that from September the two Telepiu terrestrial
channels (Tele+1 and Tele+2) will merge into one. The new premium service
will offer subscribers a selection of hit movies, live sporting events,
documentaries and it seems also erotic movies. 
In a separate development, the CEO of Canal Plus Michael Thoulouze has said
in a newspaper interview that they will keep 51% of Telepiu while the other
49% would go to Italian partners including media companies, banks and
investment funds. This stance has been criticised by the Italian
under-secretary at the Ministry for posts and telecommunications, Vincenzo
Vita who defined it an "exaggeration"

As we reported recently, the Italian pay-TV network Telepiu has had all its
capital put under pawn by the Comit bank (Banca Commerciale Italiana). In
the meantime, Comit has has passed on the debts to an international
consortium of banks led by a large U.S. based bank (according to "La
Repubblica" it could be  be Chase Manhattan). The consortium will from now
on handle the debts of Telepiu.
The total debt amount by 31 December 1996 amounted to 190 billion LIT
(around 190 million DEM) and estimates are that it has increased to around
300 billion LIT (around 300 million DEM) by June. With the arrival of the
new banking consortium, the financial situation at Telepiu is expected to
normalize. The shareholders will still have the additional burden of 220
billion LIT (220 million DEM) which amounts to the total losses suffered
during 1996 for the start of new digital services. 

Italians will soon be able to watch football matches nearly every night on
television, similarly to what has already happened in Spain. Up till now,
the Serie A (the Italian Premier League) matches were played on Sunday
afternoon with one match played on Sunday nights for TV requirements
(Telepiu has the exclusive rights for live transmissions). The presidents of
the major Italian league clubs are these days discussing a proposal which
could see another match being played on Saturday night, so that it could
also be transmitted live by Tele+2 which will probably have to pay an
additional 45 million DEM for this package. Besides the Serie A games,
during the past seasons Tele+2 also broadcast a match from the Serie B (the
Second Division) live on Saturday night and this will continue but in a new
time slot - probably Monday nights. 
The major clubs also want to take control of the TV rights to their own
games, instead of giving them to the Italian football federation which ten
sells them on to the highest bidder.


14.VII - RAI UNO, 21:00h - Perfect Circle (Bosnia-1996), starring: Mustafa
14.VII - RAI DUE, 22:35h - House of games (USA-1987), starring: Joe
Mantegna, Lindsay Crouse
15.VII - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Operazione San Gennaro (Italy-1966), starring:
Toto, Senta Berger
15.VII - RAI TRE, 20:50h - The case of the killer kiss (USA-1993), starring:
Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale
16.VII - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Un cane sciolto 2 - Part 1 (Italy), starring:
Sergio Castellito
16.VII - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Silent hunter (USA-1994), starring: Miles
O'Keefe, Fred Williamson
17.VII - RAI DUE, 20:50h - The great race (USA-1966), starring: Tony Curtis,
Jack Lemmon, Nathalie Wood
17.VII - RAI TRE, 20:50h - Operation: Tiger (USA-1996), starring: Gary Daniles
18.VII - RAI TRE, 20:15h - Kelly's heroes (USA-1970), starring: Telly
Savalas, Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland
18.VII - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Un cane sciolto 2 - Part 2 (Italy), starring:
Michael Lonsdale
18.VII - RAI UNO, 23:00h - Barnabo delle montagne (Italy-1994), starring:
Marco Pauletti, Duilio Fontana
19.VII - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Amnesia (USA-1996), starring: John Savage,
Nicholas Walter

Note: all foreign movies transmitted in the prime-time slot on RAI UNO are
subtitled in English on RAI Teletext page 778. Italian subtitles can be
found on page 777.

13.VII - RAI DUE, 10:25h - Formula 1: GP England - heats
13.VII - RAI DUE, 14:30h - Formula 1: GP England - the race live
13.VII - RAI TRE, 15:00h - Cycling: Tour de France
13.VII - RAI TRE, 17:50h - Athletics: International meeting from Formia
14.VII - RAI TRE, 11:05h - Cycling: Tour de France
14.VII - RAI TRE, 15:20h - Cycling: Tour de France
15.VII - RAI TRE, 09:30h - Cycling: Tour de France
15.VII - RAI TRE, 15:20h - Cycling: Tour de France
16.VII - RAI TRE, 15:20h - Cycling: Tour de France
18.VII - RAI TRE, 15:25h - Cycling: Tour de France
18.VII - RAI TRE, 17:35h - Tennis: WTA Tour from Palermo
19.VII - RAI TRE, 14:45h - Cycling: Tour de France
19.VII - RAI TRE, 18:10h - Tennis: WTA Tour from Palermo
19.VII - RAI TRE, 00:05h - Boxing: World title fight Luigi

14.VII - RAI UNO, 22:50h - Music: Ravenna-Sarajevo - the Scala performs in
16.VII - RAI DUE, 22:40h - Aspettando gli U2 - U2 special
18.VII - RAI TRE, 22:55h - Classical music: Beethoven's symphonies
19.VII - RAI DUE, 22:35h - Opera: La cenerentola by G. Rossi

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