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RCS turning page

Italian publisher forges TV deal with RAI

MILAN — Leading Italian publisher RCS, which invested and lost millions of dollars in a Carolco misadventure, announced its re-entry into the audiovisual arena Monday.

RCS has just inked a deal with pubcaster RAI to develop theme-based channels for digital TV to be distributed by Telepiu, Italy’s leading pay TV operator, on its digital service D+. (Milan-based RCS publishes Italy’s bestselling daily, Corriere della Sera. RAI is a minority shareholder in Telepiu, which is controlled by France’s Canal Plus.)

RCS president Cesare Romiti and RAI prexy Roberto Zaccaria said they will develop channels via a 50-50 joint venture. RCS will also acquire up to a 5% stake in RAISAT, RAI’s digital TV unit.

Lifestyle leanings

Romiti and Zaccaria did not specify how many channels are included in the deal but said all new services will be lifestyle-oriented.

“We have to enter the multimedia sector by expanding into digital television,” Romiti said Monday. “Besides the RAI deal, in the next few days we will ink a second contract with Telepiu to develop more services together.”

Despite Romiti’s determination to enter the TV business, RCS is expected to be very cautious in its investments, having learned the hard way through its Carolco experience.

“We signed this crucial agreement with RCS because it is Italy’s leading publishing house,” Zaccaria said. “The deal confirms our new strategy based on close cooperation with major Italian and international publishing groups.”

Financial focus

Last week RAI announced a deal with Il Sole 24 Ore, a publisher of financial news, to launch a no-fee digital TV channel featuring financial news. The interactive service will be initially aimed at Italian viewers but may expand later on an international level, the two partners said.

RAI will acquire up to a 25% stake in the new company created by Il Sole 24 Ore to develop its TV activities. The publishing group is expected to buy a minority stake in the pubcaster’s RAISAT.