Italy

Italy is the world’s fastest-growing market for Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H) technology, meaning buyers heading for AFM are on the warpath, vowing they will not shell out major moolah for an A-list Hollywood pic unless wireless rights are included.

After the launch of DVB-H with the soccer World Cup in June, when this cellphone- and soccer-crazy nation started tuning in to the sport on 2-inch TV screens, several mobile services also are offering movies.

“The majors have to be reasonable,” Medusa topper Gianpaolo Letta warns. “Our modus operandi has always been to buy all rights, which we pay a premium for. They can’t just say: ‘We are going to hold on to those (digital rights),’ because then we are going to be a lot less likely to come to an agreement.”

For both Silvio Berlusconi-owned Medusa (the sister company of top commercial broadcaster Mediaset) and RAI Cinema (the film arm of pubcaster RAI), being able to cash in on all revenue streams is especially crucial, because that’s their business model.

These two companies are Italy’s top broadcasters, film producers and theatrical distributors. Both are eager to cash in on wireless.

They’re now seeing broadband content deals such as those recently sealed by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia satcaster and 20th Century Fox with local telecoms Fastweb and Telecom Italia.

But while Internet rights are already being treated by IFTA licensing agreements as separate entities, available along with theatrical and homevid, the Italians lament that wireless rights remain an unknown quantity for Hollywood suppliers who are refusing to sell these rights until they can accurately estimate their worth.

Mobile operator Hutchinson 3G Italia, Italy’s DVB-H leader, last year sparked the furor surrounding the issue when it announced it would make “The Interpreter” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” available as a download within a week of their theatrical releases via local distrib Eagle Pictures. Eagle claimed it had not sold 3G those rights, though some kind of a dubious deal had indeed been made.

“At the time, wireless rights to firstrun movies simply did not exist,” says RAI Cinema topper Giancarlo Leone. “But at this stage it would be pretty hard to accept that they are not included in negotiations.”

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