Mediaset mindset

Italo b'caster ups local prod'n, will cut imports

MILAN — Local production at commercial broadcaster Mediaset will be ramped up in 2000 while program imports will continue to be cut.

That’s the word from Maurizio Costanzo, president of the company’s programming sales and acquisitions unit, Mediatrade.

“Last year we produced 300 hours of Italian-made drama for our three channels, and in 2000 we want to double local production up to 600 hours. We plan to cut back the number of films and variety shows and to air Italian TV drama programs at prime-time three evening per week. I think we will be able to do it by 2001,” he said.

$560 mil for programming

According to Costanzo, Mediaset will invest over 1 trillion lire ($560 million) for programming this year, 65% of which will be earmarked for acquiring film rights, mainly from the U.S., and 35% for TV drama, mostly produced locally.

“But we want to reverse this balance and use most of our budget for the production of TV drama,” he said. “For the time being, however, we have some output deals which will expire in two to three years. But our acquisitions have already become more selective and will be even more so in the future,” he said.

In the U.S., Silvio Berlusconi’s TV group has output deals with Warner, Fox, Columbia TriStar and Universal. It has exclusive agreements with Spyglass and New Regency, among others.

According to Costanzo, all genres of local production did better than expected last year.

“The average share of ‘Vivere,’ the first Italy-made soap we aired last year, was just a 1.5 point smaller than the average share of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful,’ the most successful soap ever aired in Italy,” he said.

In 2000 Mediatrade, which may soon change its name to Mediafiction, plans to produce or co-produce 10 series for daytime, eight miniseries, two sitcoms and three soaps.

Among the projects being developed, Costanzo mentioned “Journalists,” a long-running series based on the Spanish format “Periodistas,” already a hit on Mediaset’s Spanish unit Tele Cinco.

“Journalists” will air on Canale5 in the summer, he said.

Need for local talent

Costanzo explained that the main problem in increasing local production is not a lack of viewers but a lack of talent. “A few years ago, we produced 40 hours per year, and many people in Italy’s TV industry worked only a few months a year. But now all our creative talents are working full time and refuse jobs. We need to create actors, directors, script writers and engineers and to improve our relations with the film industry,” he said.

Mediaset recently inked a three-year agreement with Fininvest film unit Medusa and operates a TV school. It plans a databank for the entertainment sector and other projects.

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