Most Recent TV Upstart Sputters

For some time now, television industry observers have been declaring the need for new blood in Italy’s small-screen landscape, but a tentative first step toward challenging the longstanding RAI-Fininvest duopoly has met with dismal results.

Independent web Italia 7 pulled off a coup late last year, announcing the purchase of a crop of top-drawer feature films from Warner Bros, to be aired during December. But the entire slate, topped by such titles as “The Bodyguard,” “Batman: The Return” and “Lethal Weapons,” was withdrawn.

The acquisition of TV rights to a package of WB films and TV series by Daps, which controls Italia 7 and two minor channels, was perhaps the first instance of a potential ratings booster of this magnitude being sold outside of RAI or Fininvest.

Daps CEO Gianpiero Ades tested the waters by broadcasting a series of Warner titles that were not TV premieres, but nonetheless represented a considerable leap in quality for films aired on Italia 7. They included “Fandango,” “Body Heat,” “All the President’s Men” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” But results were so lackluster that Warner Bros. Television Italia chose to renege on the big-title deal.

“At this point, we preferred to block the broadcast to avoid wasting films with the potential to obtain good results on television,” said Rosario Ponzio, chief of Warner’s Italo TV division. “The Daps deal has been frozen for the moment, while we wait for more substantial guarantees.

“The programming of one or two big films per week, as we foresaw, is not sufficient to support a network without other programs to pull an audience.”

Meanwhile, execs at Daps have begun looking for new investors to cobble a more aggressive lineup, and to heighten Italia 7’s profile.

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