Record profit for Mediaset

Numbers boosted by higher ad sales, new revs

Less than a month before Italy’s general election, dominant commercial broadcaster Mediaset, controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, reported record net profit in 2005 of E603.4 million ($725.2 million), up 9.8% and in line with analyst expectations.

Group revenues came in at $4.4 billion (up 7.5%) and operating profit stood at $1.25 billion (up 14.1%), boosted by higher ad sales and new revenues from digital terrestrial pay TV.

Deputy president Piersilvio Berlusconi, son of the tycoon-turned-premier, said he expected 5 million homes to have access to digital terrestrial TV by the end of the year, up from the current 4 million.

Soccer remains the crucial content, and Mediaset is close to signing exclusive deals with Italy’s five top clubs for their 2009-10 soccer broadcasting rights, Piersilvio Berlusconi said.

Mediaset prexy Fedele Confalonieri, one of Silvio Berlusconi’s closest associates, tried to allay investors’ fear of a negative impact on the TV group if Berlusconi loses the April elections, as opinion polls indicate he will.

“Everybody talks about political risks to Mediaset. But … that would be against the market and would deal a blow to a healthy and competitive company,” he said.