Dahlia finally wilts
Published: 14.16 UTC, March 3, 2011 by Julian Clover

Italyís pay-DTT venture Dahlia is out of the relegation zone and into the wilderness, but how? Asks Julian Clover

Hereís a familiar tale, a pay-TV operation goes out of business leaving football clubs without an outlet for their matches, and this time itís in Italy. Given the footballisation of society and the acceptance of all that is round it seems amazing that a pay-TV service with matches from Serie A could even wobble, let alone leave the administrator with no choice other than to close it down as is the case with Dahlia TV.

Weíve been here before of course, with the UKís ITV Digital, and to a certain extent with NTL. Yet still operators line up for more; the number of additional subscribers to Sky Sports across DTT, IPTV and Cable that garnered as a result of Ofcomís Wholesale Must Offer is estimated to be but a few hundred thousand, a figure surely dwarfed by the amount that has gone into the legal system as a result of the protracted claim. If ever there was a case for the long game, this is it.

ESPN is distributed within Virgin Mediaís big basic, but can justify its premium status by increasingly extensive coverage of rugby, rather than just being a bolt on for a single Premier League game a week.

Dahliaís demise comes just as Sky Italia has been given the go-ahead to enter the Italian DTT system. It canít be said that pay DTT in the Italian market doesnít work, given the success of Mediaset Premium, nor can you really blame Dahliaís choice of football matches as the tactical blunder that led to its sending off. (Italian football rights are sold on a club-by-club basis rather than as a package).

Look around Europe and for every Dahlia there is a Digitenne. Even RiksTV, which struggled for so long in the Norwegian market, can be expected to turn a profit for 2010.

Just as there is more to life than just football, so too the Dahlia schedule, like Mediaset it had a balanced offer. Sky Italia effectively cut its prices last summer and has been rewarded with a return to growth. Maybe it is down to the customer profile and what else they might subscribe to. How many of Dahliaís customers also had a Mediaset or Sky card? In pay-TV there is a thin line between mini-pay and premium.