Italy: Pope projects are symbol of primetime rivalry

ROME — Rivals Mediaset and pubcaster RAI are still duking it out in primetime with local product. A high-profile squabble involved dueling biopics of late Pope John Paul II, which ranked among the top-rated shows of the year for both nets.

But another type of domestic drama is scoring bigtime lately: the heated political battle leading up to national elections on April 9-10.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a TV tycoon before entering politics, has been flooding the airwaves, incessantly hitting talkshows on his Mediaset net and on RAI, boosting ratings all around.

As for imports, U.S. series are working fairly well, reality is showing staying power and Hollywood movies are still in demand despite scoring much lower ratings than in years past.

“Movies from the majors remain strategically important for us,” says Mediaset acquisitions topper Francesco Mozzetti, though he cautions that the effects of the shrinking homevid window and new media outlets have inexorably diminished some of pics’ appeal.

At Mip, Mozzetti hopes to close the deal on high-profile titles such as Sony’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” while RAI’s upcoming primetime pics include “The Last Samurai” and “Mystic River,” titles that provide a prestigious counterpoint to dominant domestic goods.

U.S. series are holding their own in primetime — “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” on RAI and “The OC” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on Mediaset. But they air on these web’s respective lesser nets rather than their flagship stations and go out first on paybox Sky Italia.

“Of course ‘Desperate Housewives’ suffered a little from having already been on Sky,” admitts RAI acquisitions topper Carlo Macchitella.

Macchitella said his primary mission at Mip will be cherry-picking U.S. TV movies with name casts and a hook, such as being centered around a woman cop.

RAI, which is currently airing a sanitized version of “Rome,” and has pricey WWII Teutonic mini “Dresden — The Inferno,” is also seeking other high-profile historical skeins.

1. “San Remo Song Fest,” RAI

2. “A Man Who Became Pope,” Mediaset

3. “Rockpolitik,” RAI

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