Mediaset trumpets ’00, stake in telco

Canale 5 has spectacular year

MILAN — While Silvio Berlusconi is expected to win Italy’s general election for prime minister May 13, the media giant has even more to crow about as his TV and advertising group Mediaset announced better than expected financial results for 2000 and the acquisition of a strategic minority stake in former monopolist Telecom Italia.

Calling ’00 a magic year at a crowded Milan press conference Wednesday, Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri said: “Mediaset posted record growth in everything including TV shares, profits and revenues. We could not do better.”

Last year, Italy’s largest broadcaster posted consolidated net revenues totaling 4.58 trillion lire ($2.2 billion), an increase of 15.4% compared with the previous year, while net profit increased by 24.9% to $409 million.

Confalonieri said the results stemmed from excellent 12.25% growth in TV ad revenues, and an increase in revs generated from the sale of rights to pay TV, particularly for sports. The group also improved its programming strategy, reducing high-cost and low-profitability products while increasing inhouse TV drama production.

Canale 5 stands out

Last year was spectacularly successful for Canale 5, said Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of the TV tycoon-turned-politician and president-CEO of RTI, the TV unit of Mediaset. The web added 1.3 points to its 24-hour share for an average share of 22.5 — the best result since monitoring of such shares began in Italy 14 years ago. In the fall, Canale 5 became Italy’s most popular primetime network with a 26.4%, 2 points ahead of RAI1, Berlusconi added.

Confirming that free-to-air TV will continue to play a central role in the media system, Mediaset execs said that the group will invest $200 million over the next five years to shift to digital transmission by ’06, as recent legislation mandates for all broadcasters.

“Interactivity and new digital products and services are in our future,” Confalonieri said, adding that the group bought a stake smaller than 2% in giant telco Telecom Italia. The unexpected acquisition (Telecom Italia has purchased TeleMontecarlo TV group, a small competitor of Mediaset) is motivated by the necessity to join forces with operators to reach Italian households via cable systems.

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