Murdoch paybox to reach profit in '06

Rupert Murdoch-owned satcaster Sky Italia has reached cruising altitude, having lured more than 3.5 million subscribers less then 2½ years since its inception, the paybox announced on Tuesday.

Despite growing competition from terrestrial digital operators — primarily Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, which started selling pay-per-view soccer and movies this year — the monopoly paybox has met its subscriber target and is on track to turn a profit by the end of fiscal 2006, a Sky rep said.

“We have reached excellent results in these years,” boasted topper Tom Mockridge. “We will continue to give everyone the freedom to choose every day the best national and international productions.”

Apart from convincing Italians to pay for TV, Sky has also developed an increasingly competitive attitude toward Mediaset, the country’s top commercial broadcaster.

Sky will not beam Mediaset’s four-channel bouquet next year. Sky has also challenged the Berlusconi government’s subsidies to digital decoders, sparking a European Commission probe into whether the subsidies favor one digital technology over another. Italy is estimated to have 3.3 million terrestrial digital decoders.

Sky Italia also confirmed Kathryn Fink as its director of programming. She has been acting director since March.

Fink was a member of the team that launched Sky Italia in July 2003.

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