MILAN – Italy’s sole pay TV operator Telepiu is upgrading its programming offering in hopes of increasing its subscribership.

Currently, the satellite TV service launched earlier this year has just 39,000 subscribers; in comparison, 810,000 households receive the basic analog three-channel service, which started in 1991. The price of a digital set-top box is still more than $1,100 but is expected to decrease in the future.

The new offer includes international channels Bet on Jazz Intl., Bloomberg Information TV, the Weather Channel and Hallmark, delivering the best of Hallmark’s TV movies and miniseries.

All these channels will feature Italian-language programming 24 hours a day, and will be available beginning January 1997. They will be broadcast from Eutelsat’s Hot Bird 2, which launched in November, on which Telepiu has four transponders.

“Later in 1997 more prestigious international channels will be added, starting with NBC and CNBC,” Telepiu CEO Robert Hersov said. The basic bouquet already includes BBC World, Cartoon Network, CNN Intl, MTV Europe and Discovery Channel, and costs $10 a month.

Telepiu is controlled by Germany’s Kirch Group and Nethold, who each control a 45% stake. Founder Silvio Berlusconi holds the remaining 10% stake. With Canal Plus having recently acquired Nethold, sources expect the new shareholder to bring some changes to the Italian company.

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