Soccer kicks rates for Italo stations

Match attracts 18% share

MILAN — There may just be room for an alternative network in Italy.

Just last week, established players Mediaset and RAI, which normally account for 90% of total TV viewing, were beaten in the ratings by an ad hoc clutch of local stations.

On Aug. 27, a soccer match aired in primetime by 16 unaffiliated local stations attracted an impressive 18% share with 3.95 million viewers — 27,000 more viewers than Mediaset’s flagship Canale 5 and nearly 400,000 more than the pubcaster’s leading channel RAI 1.

Making contact

The soccer league’s prexy, Massimo Moratti, had earlier contacted Sandro Parenzo, an independent TV producer and owner of Rome-based production company Videa and local TV station TeleLombardia, over rights.

“We spent $255,000 for the free TV rights to the match, including production costs. It’s as much as our budget for a whole month, but we succeeded in finding enough local stations to share the costs within 48 hours,” Parenzo said Thursday.

The soccer coup by the group of local stations pumped new life into rumors that the creation of a national TV broadcaster to compete with Mediaset and RAI could be accomplished.

Admittedly, one 20-year-old player, TeleMontecarlo, has never managed to become a viable alternative to RAI and Mediaset, and barely manages to survive now with a minuscule TV share.

Window of opportunity

But because the merger between Rupert Murdoch’s Stream and Vivendi’s Telepiu on the pay TV front is increasingly uncertain, there may just be an opening for a third party to take on the established terrestrial players.

In the past few days, in fact, former Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabe said he is trying to launch a national network with a group of leading TV talents.

Now it appears that Parenzo may join forces with other local TV stations to launch a national TV net.

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