Rupe's lieutenant conquers Italian television

Kathryn Fink, a native Australian, is the only woman in the land of Silvio Berlusconi who holds sway over what millions of Italians watch on TV.

A former executive business assistant to Rupert Murdoch at News Corp.’s New York HQ, Fink moved to Italy in 2002 as a key member of the team that launched News Corp.’s Sky Italia pay TV satcaster.

With a current base of more than 4.8 million subs, Sky has by now conquered about one-fourth of the TV homes in a country where getting people to pay for TV was once considered an uphill battle.

“The first thing that had to be fixed was to resolve the huge piracy issues that there had been in Italy,” she says. “The second was building an offer that was world-class pay television.”

The pursuit of that second objective — giving Italians the best possible content — has spurred Fink to aggressively recruit stars both from Berlusconi’s Mediaset and pubcaster RAI.

Since January Fink has generated mega-waves on Italy’s TV landscape by invading the competition, snapping up such Italo artists as hugely popular Sicilian showman and ratings champ Rosario Fiorello, who had worked for both Mediaset and RAI over the years. 

Berlusconi was so saddened to see Fiorello go to “the enemy,” as he reportedly put it, that the prime minister, who controls Mediaset, summoned the popular satirist-singer to his Rome home in an attempt to dissuade him. But no dice.

“We gave Fiorello the creative freedom that he needed to be enticed to come and work with us,” Fink says.

And while the move paid off handsomely in terms of viewership, it also provided payback from Rupe to Berlusconi for doubling the value-added tax on pay TV subscriptions to 20% — particularly injurious to Sky Italia.

IN A NUTSHELL

Job title: Director of programming, Sky Italia

Mentor: “I’ve had the privilege of working with Rupert Murdoch, who certainly provides inspiration.”

Career mantra: “Always say yes to a challenge.”

Leisure pursuits: “Anything that combines sport, nature and a bit of adventure.”

Philanthropic passion: Kiva.org — microfinancing for small entrepreneurs in poverty stricken-countries.

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