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Sky Italia tries to shake out of slump

Outfit undergoes Italianization of management

Rupert Murdoch’s paybox Sky Italia is undertaking a major management reorganization following a recent profit and subscriber slump.

Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge’s announcement Tuesday comes as News Corp. bids to take full control if its British paybox BSkyB.

Kathryn Fink, the Aussie who was key to launching Sky Italia in 2003, is stepping down as director of programming, and returning to News Corp. in a London-based advisory role, starting July 1.

Former marketing chief Andrea Scrosati has been appointed VP of programming, promotions and film acquisitions at Italy’s leading pay TV platform, which accounts for more than 10% of News Corp.’s sales.

Scrosati, a former political and entertainment sector public relations wunderkind, will also be in charge of Sky Italia’s public relations, its website and its rocky rapport with ratings compiler Auditel.

Eurosport co-prexy Jacques Raynaud is joining as VP sports and advertising, while chief operating officer Laura Cioli has added the management of third-party channels to her portfolio.

Significantly, Sky Italia has set up a public affairs department, to be headed by Roberto Pugnalin, in charge of regulatory and European Union affairs.

This area is now more crucial than ever due to increased competition from Mediaset’s pay TV arm, which critics charge benefits from the clout of being owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In May, Sky Italia, which is fully owned by News Corp., reported third-quarter operating profits of $35 million, $28 million less than the same period a year ago, while its subscriber base of 4.7 million declined by 39,000 subs from the previous quarter.

Analysts attribute that slump to the rising number of first-time pay TV viewers choosing Mediaset’s cheaper soccer and movies offer, but expect Sky Italia to remain the top pay TV player due to its wider offer of more than 200 channels.

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