Sky Italia confirms Mediaset talks

Rumours of a possible programming link-up between Sky Italia and arch-rivals Mediaset look like becoming fact.

Pier Silvio Berlusconi

News Corp-owned Sky Italia is involved in talks with Mediaset, it has been confirmed. The end result could see some of Mediaset’s pay-TV exclusive content appearing on Sky Italia. Sky Italia also confirmed discussions were under way but declined to elaborate on the possible outcome.

Mediaset seems keen to gain exposure to the near-4m homes on the Sky Italia distribution system, while for Rupert Murdoch it could give Sky’s Italian customers access to all of Mediaset’s trio of Premium soccer, movies and other pay-TV programming.

While not part of this deal , it is also worth remembering that Mediaset now controls Dutch format house Endemol, and thus access to shows like Big Brother. Mediaset broadcasts three major network channels in Italy (and between them a 42.5% TV market share).

Silvio Berlusconi’s son Pier Silvio (38), who recently met with James Murdoch (35) amidst reports that the two got on famously, manages Mediaset, and evidently the two agreed to not step on one another’s toes in Italy.

“I had in front of me someone who is basically my age, which is a positive when you have to communicate. We talked about everything: from soccer to rugby to, obviously, our respective outlooks and strategies on pay-TV, free TV, what is happening in England, their investments in Premiere, Sky Italia and Mediaset. We really covered the waterfront,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi told trade mag Variety.

The statements all sound good, but not everything in the Italian pay-TV garden is rosy. For example, Sky Italia last week complained to the European Union about what they see as unfair conditions on the rules covering soccer TV rights. The new Italian rules come into effect in 2010. Sky’s grumble is how the Italian soccer league has parcelled up the various games, and thereby “forcing broadcasters to buy games they don’t need,” said Sky Italia.