Ad decline hits terrestrial TV revenues

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia is expected to overtake prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset as Italy’s top-earning commercial TV player in 2013, according to a report by ITMedia Consulting.

After years of steady growth “for the first time, the television market as a whole in Italy is undergoing a recessive phase,” said the study, titled “The Television Market in Italy: 2011-2013 — New challenges for the crisis years.”

With the country’s advertising market likely to suffer the longterm impact of the economic crisis, the report sees News Corp.’s Sky Italia paybox continuing to grow, confirming that pay TV is more recession-proof than advertising-based free TV in the Italian market.

Earlier this month Sky Italia notched up 5 million subs and predicted further profits. Mediaset’s low-end Mediaset Premium, operated with pay-as-you-go cards, claims nearly 4.5 million subs but has yet to break even.

According to ITMedia, at the end of 2011, the Italian TV market will be worth €8.8 billion ($12.2 billion), slightly less than 2010. With six-months to go before switch from analog to digital terrestrial transmission, the country’s three main broadcasters, Mediaset, Sky and pubcaster RAI, account for 95% of the TV market.

Going forward, Sky Italia and Mediaset will continue to contend the leadership position, with almost similar market shares and revenues of around $4.1 billion.

But Mediaset, given that generalist TV will remain its core-business, is expected to be affected by an advertising downturn, which will help Sky take the top position in 2013, the report predicted.

Mediaset, which suffered a 2.1% drop in advertising for the first half of this year, will announce its third-quarter results on Nov. 8.

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