Itochu takes stake in Via

MADRID — Japanese industrial giant the Itochu Co., owner of digital platform PerfecTv, will buy 5% of Via Digital, Spain’s second digital platform.

This shareholding has been left vacant since the Pearson-owned Recoletos publishing group signaled its intention in June to leave Via Digital, following what it described as “discrepancies” with its shareholders, Spanish pubcaster RTVE and Mexico’s Televisa.

Itochu’s entry was confirmed by Via Digital prexy Pedro Perez at a long-awaited press conference, which saw Perez mark a vastly different programming strategy for Via Digital, skedded to launch this September, from that of the up-and-running rival CanalSatelite Digital.

For its 35 channels, Via Digital will rely heavily on the stock of RTVE and Televisa. The latter alone will package five channels for the platform.

Perez’s most explosive comments, however, regarded output deals with the U.S. studios. “We’re not willing to accept output deals which the majors are trying to impose above their market value (for Spain),” Perez said.

This could be a smoke screen: Via Digital, like competitor CSD, is known to have bid aggressively for an output deal with Time Warner. Perez pointed out that there are a lot of U.S. indie pics that could play on the platform.

With its basic package priced at $17, below CSD’s, Via Digital could be positioning itself as a downmarket alternative, aimed at Spaniards who rejoice in national product. The one thing it lacks, however, is soccer. Perez said confidently that Via Digital would be screening pay-per-view soccer games beginning in September. Rival CSD, which owns the PPV rights, fired back within hours to say that Via Digital should desist from making such claims.

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