Sky Italia tops 4 mil subscribers

Murdoch mulls IPO for Italian satcaster

ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia has passed the 4 million subscriber mark, three years after launching in one of Europe’s most notoriously difficult pay TV markets.

Reaching this milestone is important for the satcaster as News Corp. is mulling an initial public offering. Sky Italia topper Tom Mockridge earlier this week said it was a decision that ultimately comes down to News Corp. and Murdoch.

Analysts say a Sky Italia IPO is a foregone conclusion as the company will need to invest in expansion of its network, and perhaps push further into broadband as it has done in Britain, to keep ahead of broadcast rivals Mediaset, RAI and Telecom Italia’s new IPTV service Alice.

Speculation is high the company will announce its intentions by the second half of 2007.

This autumn, Murdoch singled out Sky Italia as one of the fastest growing units within News Corp. In August, it reported a net profit of Euros 32 million ($42 million) for the fiscal year ending on June 30.

Sky Italia also announced this week it struck a production deal with Nea-politan helmer Gabriele Salvatores (“I’m Not Scared”) to develop a six-episode miniseries to air next year based on his 2005 film “Quo Vadis, Baby?,” a tale of a female private detective re-investigating her sister’s suicide. Finan-cial terms were not disclosed.