Soccer teams prep channel

New net will sell direct subscriptions to the market

MILAN — Confirming expectations that life in Italy will not be easy for Rupert Murdoch’s new pay TV operator Sky Italia — even though it has the monopoly — some Italian soccer clubs plan to launch their own pay TV channel to beam the games Murdoch will not show.

The decision was made on Tuesday during the meeting of Lega Calcio, the national soccer league. Lega Calcio will acquire 10% in the new platform, dubbed Gioco Calcio (Soccer Game), with another 25% stake in the hands of Plus Media Trading, a joint venture of 11 clubs playing in the first and second division, including Chievo, Brescia and Perugia. The remaining 65% has been offered to external investors.

Most of the popular first division clubs have contracts with Telepiu and Stream, the two pay TV platforms which merged on Wednesday to create Sky Italia. But the pacts will expire in 2004 or 2005.

Gioco Calcio will be aired by Sky Italia, but instead of selling the rights to the games of the 11 clubs to Murdoch, it will sell direct subscriptions to the market.

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