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TELEPIU CATCHES LIVE MOUSE

Exclusive deal will include Italo Disney Channel

LONDON – Disney/ABC Intl. TV has signed a 10-year deal with Italian pay TV company Telepiu, covering pay-per-view and exclusive pay TV rights to Disney’s live-action features.

The deal also includes an agreement to launch an Italian-lingo version of the Disney Channel on Telepiu’s Premium digital bouquet late in 1997.

“‘The quality programming that Disney/ABC provides through this agreement is an essential ingredient in unlocking the potential of the Italian pay TV market,”‘ said Robert Hersov, chief exec of Milan-based Telepiu.

“As a pioneer in the Italian pay TV market, Telepiu has dramatically extended the choice available for Italian viewers,” commented Herb Granath, chairman of Disney/ABC Intl. TV. “Telepiu’s distribution expertise together with quality entertainment from Disney will further extend that choice.”

The agreement includes both released and unreleased product from Walt Disney Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone, Miramax and Buena Vista. Among the titles are “101 Dalmatians” and “The Rock.” Telepiu currently has a non-exclusive, five-year agreement with Disney, which will expire in 1998. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Italy will be the sixth foreign market to get its own Disney Channel. Three have already been launched – in Taiwan, the U.K. and Australia – and two more are scheduled next spring, in France and the Middle East.

Telepiu operates three terrestrial pay TV channels, and recently launched its digital satellite service. This offers six basic channels, three premium services and a soccer channel. Seven more channels will be added in January. Telepiu currently has 810,000 analog subscribers and about 39,000 digital subs.

Telepiu’s main shareholders are the Kirch Group and Nethold, which recently agreed to merge with Canal Plus.

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