MTV-Italia on fast track for profit

Milan-based music chan to double revs in 1998

MILAN — Viacom’s Milan-based music channel MTV-Italia expects to double its revenues in 1998 and reach breakeven in 1999, one year earlier than anticipated.

Since it became available in September last year via terrestrial transmitters 24 hours-a-day free, the channel has been increasing its programming in Italian lingo, up to 60% of total air time, and become one of the most popular niche TV services in the country.

According to a recent survey, MTV is the third most popular channel in Italy among viewers in the 15-24 age group, after Mediaset’s Canale 5 and Italia 1, and ahead of pubcaster RAI’s three channels.

MTV Italia stands to get a further boost this fall, when it hosts the MTV Europe Music Awards in November.

“We are doing very well, because Italy’s TV advertising market is strong and prices keep on rising, and because we are very popular among youth,” said Antonio Campo Dall-Orto, 33, director of MTV Italia who previously worked at Berlusconi’s Canale 5 as vice director.

He did not give any financial details, citing Viacom’s policy, but said that U.S. group will soon invest in Italy in activities “close to the TV industry, including radio.”

“In Italy, where we have chosen to be a free terrestrial channel, we can afford to grow in a more relaxed way compared to the other European countries, where MTV channels are broadcast via satellite,” Campo Dall-Orto said.

“However, also in Italy we want to be present on all media, including satellite, cable and Internet. We have remained in Telepiu’s digital satellite service as a pay TV channel, because it has a higher quality sound, stereo, and a 100% coverage of Italy,” Campo Dall-Orto explained.

MTV Italia broadcasts its programs via Rete A, a nationwide TV channel owned by Milan based publisher Alberto Peruzzo, which has until last year been showing just cheap shopping TV programs and some information.

Peruzzo has kept a 30 minute slot a day which is reserved for information and one hour for tele shopping programs. In the remaining 22-1/2 hours, the channel transmits 60% of its programming in Italian, with local content and VJs, most of which is produced in Milan and some in London by an Italian team. The rest is supplied by the MTV international network.