Italian TV unites against Sky Italia

Italian public broadcaster RAI has linked with commercial broadcaster Mediaset to plan the launch of a rival digital platform to Rupert Murdochís Sky Italia. The service is called Tivý, and will use the nationís digital terrestrial (DTT) spectrum as well as satellite.

Tivu is unashamedly modelled on the UKís digital Freeview (mostly) free-TV service. RAI and Mediaset (owned ultimately by Silvio Berlusconiís family interests) each hold 48% of the new operation, with Telecom Italia having a four per cent stake. The plan must now get past regulators.

Local reports say it will start operations late this year for the DTT platform, Tivý, and in the first half of next year for the satellite version, Tivý Sat. The platform will be mainly a marketing tool for both the platforms themselves and for receivers, in particular at the point of sale.

All free-to-air channels broadcasting in Italy will be free to join the platform, with no payment necessary.

Irdeto will be used to encrypt the satellite version to avoid overspill into neighbouring countries but it is unclear on which satellite the channels will be carried. Local reports say talks with Eutelsat have not borne fruit.

Sky Italia, an all-pay service, has 4.5m subscribers, helped by Italian soccer. Mediaset Premium, a pre-paid four-channel bouquet (movies, series and Disney) is already available on DTT.