TV platform loses $280 mil in first nine months of 2001

MILAN — Italy’s cash-strapped pay TV platform Stream, controlled by Telecom Italia and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., lost 317 million euros ($280 million) in the first nine months of the year.

The telco giant, which owns a 50% stake in Stream, said Wednesday that the loss was caused by the high cost of sports rights, adding that from January to September revenues more than doubled to $155 million.

In 2000, Stream lost $354 million and analysts expect it to lose over $400 million this year.

Stream and dominant pay TV operator Telepiu, a debt-ridden platform belonging to Vivendi Universal’s Canal Plus, are still in merger talks.

News Corp. and Vivendi-U consider the merger the only way to launch a financially sound platform. Telecom Italia expects to finalize a deal to sell its stake in Stream and exit the pay TV industry.

However, the merger may be at risk. On Tuesday, Italy’s antitrust authorities decided to postpone a decision on the merger until mid-December.

The union would create a single national pay TV operator, 75% controlled by Canal Plus, 25% by News Corp.

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