Industry marches to global drummers

ROME — Italy is rapidly turning into a prominent content-providing territory, but that doesn’t mean Italo broadcasters have less appetite for U.S. skeins and other foreign fare for the upcoming TV seasons.

Italo publishing giant De Agostini recently snapped up Scandinavian TV production company Zodiak, a European powerhouse with interests in Asia and Russia, after swooping down on Gaul’s Marathon Group, maker of hit toon “Totally Spies.”

De Agostini, which also owns Italy’s Magnolia, producer of “Celebrity Survivor,” and Spain’s Antena 3 web, is rearing to rival Endemol, controlled as of last year by Italo premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

But at Mediaset, which is the top Italo commercial web, the big draw in primetime remains “Doctor House,” even though Endemol’s “Big Brother” is still going strong, as are local dramas.

At rival RAI, top-drawer Hollywood fare has been getting a rougher ride.

“Lost” underperformed in primetime, averaging below a 10% average audience share this year compared with a 25% average for hot local skeins like Sicilian cop crimer “Montalbano” and “Don Matteo,” about a priest who doubles as a detective. Both these local shows have greater appeal to RAI’s generally older demographic.

“Ugly Betty” also failed to fly in primetime on the Italo pubcaster.

Still, RAI does need some new Hollywood shows to lure in Italy’s younger demographic, which is key to advertisers.

That said, Italo primetime slots continue to be dominated by domestic skeins, a longstanding trend still very much in vogue at both leading terrestrial webs.

Mediaset has upped the number of hours of self-produced fiction from 172 in 2006 to 252 planned in 2008, boasting that its homegrown shows score an average 23% share in primetime.

In the pay-TV arena, Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia satbox is solidly entrenched despite some heat from Mediaset’s smaller Premium Gallery digital pay service, which has been aggressively trying to woo Sky’s customers thanks to its volume deals with Warner Bros. and Universal.

The embryonic new media sector saw Warner Bros. recently launching its Warner TV channel on Italo broadband provider Fastweb, which touts itself as being an IPTV pioneer.

TOP 3

“Montalbano” (RAI-1)

“Doctor House” (Canale 5)

“I Cesaroni” (Canale 5)

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