Silvio, Rupe to split in January

Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Sky Italia have discreetly divorced, untying the pact under which a four-channel Mediaset bouquet has been beaming on Rupert Murdoch’s Italo paybox since its 2003 inception.

Mediaset’s paybox package — comprising soft porn station Duel TV, comic Happy Channel, science-centered MT Channel and Italia Teen Television — will cease to air on Sky Italia in January under the renegotiated terms of a deal that originally stipulated their transmission on the Italo Sky platform through 2010.

Mediaset has now agreed to rescind that agreement, while Sky has committed to purchase the library of satellite rights that fed the Mediaset bouquet, the two companies said in a joint statement.

The statement underlined that there will be “other opportunities” for Mediaset and Sky to collaborate.

But the split comes as competition between the two groups, Italy’s top commercial TV players, has been heating up locally.

Mediaset earlier this year launched a unique soccer and cinema digital terrestrial pay-per-view scheme utilizing prepaid cards and benefiting from subsidies for terrestrial digital decoders introduced by the Berlusconi-led government.

Claiming they slant the playing field by favoring one digital technology over another, Sky Italia has challenged those subsidies with EU regulators, who opened a probe into their legitimacy earlier this month.

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