Launch coincides with World Cup

Mobile phone operator 3 Italia will launch Italy’s first mobile TV service in June, just before the start of the soccer World Cup, for which it holds cellphone rights.

Tuesday’s news comes hot on the heels of last week’s Barcelona 3GSM cellphone confab on the ballyhooed birth of the global mobile TV market.

3 Italia purchased mobile TV rights last year to all 64 World Cup games from international soccer federation FIFA.

Pioneer Italo cell-web, to be called La 3, will start in early June with 15 channels, four furnished by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia and two by Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, which will also provide La 3 with top league series-A soccer games.

La 3, which will produce three in-house channels, is also in talks to carry content from pubcaster RAI.

The La 3 service will cost less than 1e ($1.18) per day.

3 Italia, which is a unit of Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Whampoa, suspended a planned IPO earlier this month, reportedly due to heavy debts.

3 Italia hopes La 3′s launch will improve its standing with potential investors and up its current 5.5 million subs base prior to another IPO attempt.

“This is the first step towards understanding us as a mobile media company, not just a mobile operator,” said 3 Italia topper Vincenzo Novari.

Novari said he would consider La 3 a “big success” if it attracted 500,000 extra customers for 3 Italia by the end of this year.

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