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Sky Italia to bow local movie channel

Move is latest in rivalry with Mediaset, RAI

MILAN — Sky Italia has announced a new channel dedicated to local movies, in order to keep ahead in the Italo satellite market.

From July 31, it will show Italian films from the 1940s through to the 1990s, opening with Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard.”

The move is the latest chapter in the bitter rivalry between media mogul Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, and comes just a week before the launch of the joint RAI-Mediaset-La7 TivuSat satellite platform, also on July 31.

TivuSat, a free-to-air service, will target the 15-20% of Italian households in mountainous areas who will not receive digital terrestrial television when analog TV is switched off in 2012. But the satellite TV platform is also widely seen as a tool designed to counter Sky Italia.

Some observers say Sky Italia may also have the jitters following rumors that Medusa, the major Italo content producer and film distributor owned by Mediaset, might no longer deal with the Murdoch broadcaster. And by the end of the month, Sky Italia will learn if pubcaster RAI is to block the broadcast of its terrestrial channels on Sky satellite dishes.

Analyst Alessandro Bai-Badino of Deutsche Bank told Variety: “Everyone seems to be against Sky at the moment. Maybe it’s been making a bit too much noise lately,” in reference to its attacks on the Berlusconi government’s decision to raise VAT on satellite TV subscriptions.

But helmer Nanni Moretti hailed Sky’s new channel, which he said would help boost the profile of Italian cinema. “As a viewer and a director I’d like to thank Sky for creating this channel,” he said.

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