Canal Plus/RAI channels to bow July 1

D+ to transmit thematic programming

ROME — Gallic pay TV giant Canal Plus and Italo pubcaster RAI unveiled Thursday that the first six thematic channels produced by RAI for Canal Plus’ Italian pay TV operator Telepiu will start broadcasting July 1.

The channels are part of a deal finalized in December, which provides that RAI shall buy a 10% stake in Telepiu, the dominant pay Italo TV company, in which Canal Plus has a 90% stake. The acquisition will be completed within two years and RAI will acquire its stake through a cash payment and through several thematic channels.

The first six channels provided by RAI will be commercial-free and entirely in Italian, and will be transmitted 24 hours a day as part of Telepiu’s digital bouquet, called D+. They will be included in the D+ basic package, which has about 600,000 subscribers.

At a press conference in Rome, RAI president Roberto Zaccaria, general director Pier Luigi Celli, Canal Plus president Pierre Lescure and Telepiu CEO Michel Thoulouze announced that the six channels will include services dedicated to children’s programming, entertainment and cultural shows (excluding TV drama), cinema (mainly programming about films rather than films), history (from RAI’s huge archive), Italian cuisine and arts. Each channel will cost RAI about $6 million a year. They will be produced in the Turin-based RAI studios in Northern Italy.

Next year, Italy’s pubcaster will provide Telepiu five more channels, including the first service fully dedicated to nationally produced TV dramas. In the last few years, RAI has increased its production of miniseries and TV movies, with very good ratings results.

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