Rupe up on Sky Italia’s feevee future

News Corp. topper sez company's tech to top piracy

Rupert Murdoch is optimistic about the future of his newborn pay TV platform Sky Italia, currently the sole operator in Italy’s still underdeveloped feevee biz.

“We will reach a target of 3 million subscribers very soon, and in the next few years there is no reason why we should not conquer 50% of Italy’s households, if we work well in this territory,” the Australian-American tycoon told Italy’s newly launched business magazine Panorama Economy in an interview published Friday.

Telepiu and Stream currently have 1.86 million subscribers altogether. The two beleaguered pay TV operators merged on April 30 to create Sky Italia, which is controlled by Murdoch’s News Corp. with a 80.1% stake; former telco monopolist Telecom Italia has 19.9%.

Piracy and the large number of free TV channels have hampered the development of the pay sector in Italy until now, forcing the two former rivals Telepiu and Stream to join forces rather than to compete.

“Thanks to the technology News Corp. has developed piracy will be totally and once for all cancelled in Italy,” he said.

As for programming, “We will offers Italians an increasing number of channels, and we hope that many of them will be produced by Italian companies,” said the tycoon, thus answering the TV producers’ recent protests that Murdoch will flood Italy with “Anglo-Saxon products and kill national industry.”

He confirmed that Sky Italia will air a national version of Fox News Channel.

Murdoch said that he does not “fear political pressure” and that Sky Italia “will be objective and unbiased, dealing equally with all political forces.”

“Fox News is not close to any politician, and in Italy our journalists will appreciate Berlusconi when (appropriate), or they will criticize him.”

Murdoch denied that News Corp. is interested in acquiring stakes in Italian TV free terrestrial channels when the current legislation is changed and said that his group does not have plans for further expansion in Europe.

In a side story, Panorama Economy reported that according to Sky Italia’s business plan prepared by Goldman Sachs, the pay TV operator will finally post profits in 2005.

Sky Italia’s official presentation is scheduled for today in Rome.

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