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HOT Italia out in cold

Regulators nix new web's license

MILAN — HOT Italia-Retemia, which plans to launch an Italian version of the successful live TV shopping service HOT operating in Germany, will not be allotted the new broadcasting license necessary to air terrestrial programming, Italy’s daily paper Il Sole 24 Ore reported Friday, quoting Minister for Communications Salvatore Cardinale.

Decision is a major blow for Thomas Kirch (son of Germany’s media mogul Leo), SBS and Barry Diller’s TV group Home Shopping Network, who were close to finalizing the acquisition of an 89.9% stake in Retemia, an Italian TV channel in which they already hold 10.1%. They were planning to transform the web into the new HOT channel.

“I am outraged as an entrepreneur, as an Italian citizen and as an operator in the new economy in Europe,” HOT Italia prexy Georg Kofler said. “We want to invest over $150 million and create 1,000 jobs,” he said.

HOT Italia is not the first channel surprisingly denied one of the eight broadcasting licenses necessary to air in Italy until 2006, when all operators will have to go digital. MTV Italia was refused a license earlier this year based on suspicions that the channel is controlled by a U.S. company. Italy’s Authority for Communication is investigating both cases, which may be reopened.

According to analysts, however, MTV is very unlikely to win a license, while HOT still has a chance, though many believe that the minister for communications will probably decide not to allot the eighth license, leaving both MTV and HOT out of the game.

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