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Rupe stream-ing

News Corp. finally inks for digital TV stake

MILAN — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Europe will ink an agreement for the acquisition of a stake in Italy’s second digital TV platform, Stream, on Saturday, Murdoch’s representative for European affairs and the division’s president Letizia Moratti said Monday in Rome.

The global mogul was expected to acquire a 35% stake in the beleaguered pay TV company Tuesday, but the signing was suspended after Italy’s Olivetti won on Friday a $65 billion battle for the control of Stream’s only shareholder, Telecom Italia.

Getting on the ball

According to the preliminary deal approved in April by Telecom Italia’s previous top management (who resigned Monday), Italy’s leading producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori would acquire an 18% stake in Stream, while a 12% stake would be bought jointly by four Italian soccer clubs. The remaining 35% stake would remain in the hands of Telecom Italia.

Olivetti has not yet indicated if it intends to confirm this plan and these partners. It said in a statement it wants “to develop Stream and its multimedia activities.”

Olivetti CEO Roberto Colaninno initially was planning to join forces in Stream with Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset. But Berlusconi’s TV group always has been cautious in the pay-TV sector, preferring to expand its activities in free terrestrial broadcasting.

Fininvest hurdle

Moreover, as Berlusconi’s family holding Fininvest owns a 10% stake in Italy’s dominant pay TV platform, Telepiu, a Stream/Mediaset deal might be blocked by Italy’s antitrust authorities.

Industry sources said Monday that Italy’s publishing house RCS also is talking with Colaninno about acquiring a stake in Stream. Such a deal would result in a different distribution of the Stream shares among its shareholders.