His "I Cesaroni" was a hit on state broadcaster RAI

Influential Italian TV producer Carlo Bixio, whose Publispei company for decades drove ratings with some of the country’s most popular shows, including the Sanremo Song Festival and smash hit series “I Cesaroni,” died suddenly of undisclosed causes in a Milan hotel room on March 1. He was 69.

Born into a Milanese showbiz family — his composing father, Cesare, is considered the man who launched modern Italian pop music — Carlo Bixio started out as a record producer and publisher of film scores in the 1960s before producing Sanremo in the early 1980s.

In 1980 Bixio became partners with impresario Gianni Ravera in Publispei, which at the time was the country’s leading organizer of made-for-TV events. He gave the Sanremo fest new lustre by allowing auds on pubcaster RAI to vote their favorite tune, turning the Italo pop song extravaganza into the country’s top-rated TV event, a status it retains to this day.

In the 1990s Bixio branched out into fiction with “Un medico in famiglia,” an Italo remake of Spanish skein “Medico de familia,” now at its seventh series on pubcaster RAI and a piece of Italo TV history that proved Italians could make their own series rather than rely exclusively on Hollywood.

Bixio went on to become among the country’s most prolific series’ producers and scored an even bigger hit with “I Cesaroni,” an adaptation of another Spanish show, “Los Serrano.” “I Cesaroni” bowed in 2006 on Mediaset and became Italy’s top-rated skein for four consecutive seasons. A fifth is in the works.

“Over the many years that we worked together I learned that Carlo Bixio knew how to talk to people’s hearts,” said Mediaset executive VP Piersilvio Berlusconi in a statement.

“We have lost a man who dedicated his entire life to developing Italy’s cultural industry,” said Warner Bros. Italy topper Paolo Ferrari, who is also chief of Italy’s entertainment entrepreneurs.

Bixio, who was vice president of Italy’s TV producers’ association APT, had also been a founder of the Rome Fiction Festival, an event that he saw as a way for Italian producers to broaden their somewhat insular visions.

“International productions are often better than ours because broadcasters outside Italy are more selective; but we should not be afraid to observe their works and compare, because it can help up grow,” he said in a 2009 interview with Variety.

Bixio is suvived by his wife, Gabriella, a daughter and a son.

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