Ad revenue drops 7.3%

ROME — Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset posted a 14% first-quarter drop in net profit to Euros 124.5 million ($168.7 million), citing a 7.3% decline in advertising.

First-quarter revenue at Italy’s top commercial broadcaster grew 1% to Euros 964.9 ($1.3 billion), as the three-channel web continued to lead the market in the key 15-64 demographic.

Results exceeded analysts expectations. The forecast is now for an Italian advertising recovery in the second quarter, starting with a 4% increase in April, Mediaset execs said in a conference call.

Mediaset’s biggest growth area is currently its unique DTT pay-per-view service, which saw revenues double to Euros 45.4 million ($61.4 million), as it sold 300,000 new pay-as-you-go rechargeable cards, and around 2.2 million of these were recharged with additional credit this year.

The DTT service includes Serie A and B football matches, “Big Brother” and premium movies.

Mediaset, which is in the race to buy Endemol in a joint bid led by Endmol’s former owner Jon de Mol and Goldman Sachs, said it has “expanded the mandate” of executive VP Piersilvio Berlusconi — who is Silvio Berlusconi’s son, who will have more direct say in all operations.

The move comes as Italy’s parliament mulls a blind trust law that could force Berlusconi senior to choose between his political career and his direct interest in Mediaset. It was officially motivated by “challenges that lie ahead on several fronts: content, technology, advertising and new business opportunities in Italy and abroad,” Mediaset said in a statement.

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