RAI & Mediaset battle with Sky

Chris Forrester

Italian public broadcaster RAI is linking with Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and will launch a new DTH platform over Italy on July 31, directly increasing competition for News Corp’s Sky Italia.

RAI and Mediaset’s new platform, TivuSat, will be free-to-air and contain some 22 channels. The model used is that of the UK’s Freesat system. However, Italian viewers need to invest in a decoder box and smart-card costing around €100 ($140).

RAI and Mediaset will each own 48.25% of the venture with the 3.5% balance taken by Telecom Italia.

"Our target is to reach that 5% of Italian families that is not currently reached by digital terrestrial by 2012," Tivu President Luca Balestrieri said. "We are not pay-TV and we do not intend to offer paid content in the future, " he added.

Sky Italia announced earlier this week that it will boost its movie offer with a new channel and HDTV transmissions, in a move also aimed at offsetting a possible pullout by RAI of its channels from Sky's platform, following the launch of TivuSat. Negotiations on the renewal of an existing contract, which expires at end-July, are ongoing, although RAI insisted negotiations with Sky Italia were ongoing. “The launch of TivuSat won't influence RAI's commercial strategy and its negotiations with Sky," RAI Vice Director General Giancarlo Leone.

Sky Italia has offered €425 million to RAI for its pay channels, including Rai Sat and Rai Cinema, for seven years, but RAI has rejected the proposal, which for now doesn't include its three free-to-air channels.