Thoulouze touts new pricing, programming

MILAN — Only a few days after Robert Hersov resigned as Telepiu CEO (Daily Variety, Aug. 21), new chief executive Michel Thoulouze of Canal Plus unveiled a strategy to relaunch the disappointing digital TV services of the paybox.

Telepiu operates three terrestrial analog pay channels in Italy, with about 850,000 subscribers, and a digital satellite platform offering several foreign-originated channels with only 80,000 households subscribed.

The new course includes changes in the pricing and marketing of decoders and in programming. The success of the digital service is crucial for Telepiu, because by law two of the three analog channels will have to be phased out in the next year.

Special rates

Next week Telepiu will launch a new campaign for its pay-per-view soccer service Telecalcio, offering special rates to old subscribers and rental rates of a modest $8 a month for digital set-top boxes instead of the usual decoder box purchase fee of $1,000. Canal Plus, the 90% owner of Telepiu, views the high price of boxes as the main reason why the digital service has met so many problems in Italy.

Programming also will change: Beginning in September, Telepiu 1 (films), Telepiu 2 (sports) and Telepiu 3 (culture) will disappear. The two surviving analog terrestrial channels (Telepiu 3 will close down by the end of this year) both will be called Telepiu and will air more or less the same programs: films, major sports events, docus and talkshows. From 7-9 p.m. the two channels will broadcast free of charge.

As for its digital service, the company said new satellite channels will join Telepiu’s satellite package from Sept. 1, bringing the total to more than 20 channels. Among the newcomers are Cineclassics Italia, a classic movie channel; Animal Planet from the Discovery Channel; and the Disney Channel.

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