La7 debuts in Italy

Struggling web bows as news channel

MILAN — Beleaguered La7 began broadcasting as an all-news network Monday, making it the only national channel independent of billionaire media tycoon and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The weblet, controlled by telco giant Telecom Italia’s multimedia unit Seat, has just a 2% audience share but has a strong symbolic role in Italy.

“Our programming will be intelligent. We aim at attracting viewers who are not satisfied with what currently exists in Italy,” Seat CEO Paolo Del Pino said.

“We will attempt to remain objective. We are not linked to the state or the government in any way –we are private and small enough to have a certain independence,” deputy director Tamara Gregoretti said.

Small-screen control

Berlusconi owns Italy’s largest broadcaster, Mediaset, and has political control of pubcaster RAI. Some 95% of Italy’s TV audience and ad revenue is split between RAI and Mediaset, leaving little for others.

Seat acquired the channel last year from Vittorio Cecchi Gori and changed its name from TeleMonteCarlo to La7. Company originally planned to relaunch as a youth-skewed web, but a lack of funds forced Seat to opt for a low-budget news channel.

Seat will spend about $70 million a year on news, live television and the acquisition of outside TV products. The Italian company has inked deals with Fox TV, National Geographic and APTV TV, and in Italy with Class Financial Network.

Airing live programming for 11 hours a day, La7 expects to gain a 3% share in Italian TV.

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