Italy: Rival webs face off in both p’gramming, Parliament

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

MILAN — Rivals Mediaset and pubcaster RAI are fighting again this season — pitting their evening talkshows against each other.

Enrico Mentana, the former news director of Mediaset flagship channel Canale 5, has just launched “Matrix,” challenging the 10-year monopoly of RAI’s “Porta a Porta” (Door to Door), hosted by veteran Bruno Vespa.

“This is politics, not business,” says RAI buyer Carlo Macchitella, referring to the crucial upcoming parliamentary elections in 2006 and the rivalry is based more in that arena than programming. “In broadcasting, real competition remains in sports, drama and entertainment.”

Things have not changed much recently in the scripted series and variety/gameshow sectors. U.S. and foreign series still do well while reality, foreign TV movies and theatrical films, including U.S. ones, continue losing ground.

“Looking at our recent experience at the Cannes market, we don’t expect much at Mipcom. Maybe we’ll buy some good series if we find them,” Macchitella says, not sounding too enthusiastic.

Italy’s TV viewers prefer more local programs and broadcasters are less eager to spend money on international shows that have little or no return.

“The real battleground today is early fringe, where RAI gameshow ‘Affari Tuoi’ is doing very well against Mediaset’s satirical show ‘Striscia,’ ” says media analyst Emanuele Bruno. “With the right show before dinner, winning at primetime is much easier.”

U.S. series do not air on RAI’s flagship channel RAI1 or Mediaset’s flagship channel Canale5, but they play a major role on both companies’ lesser webs, RAI2 and Italia1 respectively. The former has just started airing “Desperate Housewives,” with good ratings of 14%, challenging Italia1’s “CSI” on primetime.

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