Italo publishing giant moves into TV

RCS takes 51% stake in Digicast

ROME — RCS Mediagroup, publisher of some of Italy’s largest newspapers, announced it will enter Italy’s suddenly expanding digital TV market, acquiring a 51% stake in Rome-based Digicast for Euros 16.3 million ($21 million).

Digicast produces four digital TV channels — the youth-skewing Jimmy, the science and nature channel Planet, the Sailing Channel and Hunting and Fishing — that are carried on satcaster Sky Italia and broadband TV provider Fastweb. RCS has the option to purchase the remaining stake by 2010, the company said.

The move comes as the Romano Prodi-led government is proposing tough new media rules to open up Italy’s terrestrial and digital-terrestrial market to more competition. Currently, Mediaset and pubcaster RAI control more than 90% of the TV ad market.

For RCS, publishers of Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, and the popular Gazzetta dello Sport, the acquisition enables it to diversify its business beyond the struggling newspaper business. A study on Italy’s media consumption habits unveiled by research institute Censis last month revealed 90% of Italians trust the TV first and foremost for their daily news and information needs.

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