Happy Bow in Italy

Mediaset readies launch of digital channel

MILAN — Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster Mediaset is launching its first pay digital thematic channel Sunday.

Dubbed the Happy Channel, it will be included in the basic package of 15 digital channels operated by Telepiu, the pay TV group in which Mediaset’s parent company Fininvest owns 10%. The rest belongs to Canal Plus. It will be devoted largely to comedy.

“We do believe that free and pay TV can live together with no problems, and that with the future development of the pay TV operations also in Italy, the free TV networks will not suffer too much,” Mediaset’s head programmer Piersilvio Berlusconi said at a packed press conference Thursday in Milan. Piersilvio is the son of Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi.

According to current antitrust regulations, Mediaset cannot operate and own any new national channel but it can be a content provider for other operators.

“We will start feeding the channel with our huge library, one of the largest in Europe with over 8,500 titles, but soon we will start to produce sitcoms and fiction programs, the first of which will be announced in April,” the director of Mediaset’s thematic channels Carlo Vetrugno said.

He confirmed recent reports about the launch of more thematic channels, the first of which will be a kids channel by the end of this year.

Mediaset is investing about $60 million in the Happy Channel, and plans to reach breakeven within two years. The channel will air advertising, sold through Mediaset’s unit Publitalia.

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