100,000 set tops set to go in Italo market

MILAN — Telecom Italia’s multimedia unit Stream has signed a pact with U.S. group OpenTV for the digital software the Italian company will use for its new set top boxes.

OpenTV technology is used in Europe by several broadcasters, including France’s Tf1, Sweden’s Telia and British Interactive Broadcasting, the joint venture created by BSkyB, BT, Matsushita and Midland Bank. Stream has said it has made an initial order of 100,000 set top boxes using OpenTV technology to Italy’s producer Italtel.

Stream has started digital satellite TV broadcasting through three transponders on the Hot Bird satellites, aiming to reach at least 500,000 subscribers in two years. From June, it will offer a pay TV package that includes a Universal Studios film channel and a pay per view service.

Established in 1993 by state own giant Telecom Italia (formerly known as Stet) for developing and distributing multimedia services using the infrastructure of its parent company, Stream has been working on the development of TV, pay per view and video on demand services, banking heavily and solely on cable technology. Five years later, the company has accumulated a 400 billion lire ($220 million) loss and reached only 56,000 subscribers.

Despite these problems, Stream will not abandon cable, but will focus on satellite. In the pay TV service, the company will continue providing systems that deliver channels supplied by other content providers, including Universal, CNI, CNN, Euronews, Eurosport, the Cartoon Network, the Discovery Channel, and more.

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