Discovery enters Italian TV fray after Switchover acquisition

Editor | 15-01-2013

The Italian broadcasting sector is set for a big shake-up following the latest incursion into Europe by Discovery Communications with the acquisition of full control of Switchover Media.

Established in July 2009 from the management buy-out of The Walt Disney Company assets owned by former employees of Fox Kids/Jetix, Switchover Media is regarded as one of the most important players in the Italian Kids' entertainment market, offering a number of popular pay-TV and free-to-air programmes over DTT and satellite, including GXT, K2, and Frisbee, plus Giallo and Focus which offer drama for older demographics.

The move by Discovery follows a number of deals in Europe over the last couple of months most notably in December 2012 when it finalised a deal to buy a 20% interest in TF1’s Eurosport in a deal valued at around €170 million and the 20% interest in the French broadcaster’s TV Breizh, Histoire, Ushuaïa TV and Stylía pay-TV channels. Weeks earlier Discovery closed a €1.3 billion deal to take over all TV and radio assets in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark operated by ProSiebenSat.1.

Italy is Europe’s fourth largest TV market and Discovery claims that the acquisition will see the company leapfrog Sky Italia to become the nation’s third largest broadcaster in terms of reach behind state broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi-owned Mediaset. The acquisition adds to Discovery’s existing Italian portfolio which includes the Real Time and DMAX free-to-air channels as well as Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Travel & Living, Discovery Science and Discovery World in the pay-TV environment.

“Italy is a leading market for Discovery and key to our growth here over the last two years has been the development of a successful free-to-air TV business strategy as this platform has grown,” said Dee Forbes, President and Managing Director of Discovery Networks Western Europe. “The acquisition of Switchover Media adds further breadth and scale to that free-to-air strategy, as well as diversifying our portfolio to include scripted crime and children’s programming that have proven popular with audiences and advertisers.”

Added Founder and Managing Partner of Switchover Media Francesco Nespega: “Over the past three years, I had the pleasure and honor of guiding an extraordinary team, which, with dedication and competence, succeeded in leveraging the new opportunities of the digital free-to-air platform. I am confident that an international leader in the media segment, such as Discovery, with its contents and resources, will be able to further expand the potential of the channels we created and implemented.”