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Rupe moves into Italian mobile TV mart

Country one of Europe's leading markets for mobile handsets

Rupert Murdoch is expanding further into Italy’s emerging mobile TV market, striking a deal with Vodafone to bring two of its Fox digital channels to subscribers of the mobile giant’s recently launched Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld service.

Italy has emerged as one of Europe’s leading markets for watching TV on mobile handsets. Vodafone, Telecom Italia Mobile and 3 Italia, the market leader, have all begun investing heavily in competing services, buying a host of digital TV rights that can then be beamed to handsets via the transmission technology known as DVB-H.

In the latest deal, Fox Channels Italy will air two channels — FoxOne and FX Mobile — on Vodafone’s new Sky TV package. The content will be a selection of full-length and shortened programs from Sky Italia. The programs include “CSI,” “Family Guy” and “24.”

The male-oriented content follows the belief that the early market for mobile TV in Italy will be predominantly male. 3 Italia rushed to an early lead, signing up 110,000 subscribers to its DVB-H service over the summer, by showing live soccer World Cup matches. 3 Italia bought the rights from Sky Sport.

While the market is small today, media analysts at Datamonitor predict there will be 69 million subscribers worldwide to mobile TV services by 2009, generating $5.5 billion in subscription revenues.