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Sky Italia to up funding for movies

Satcaster to increase investment in film by 50%

ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s satcaster Sky Italia on Friday pledged to increase its investment in local productions by more than 50% a year, saying it will pay Euros 35 million ($46 million) annually for the pay-TV rights of Italy’s top-grossing domestic feature films.

Sky inked the deal late on Friday afternoon after a lengthy negotiation with top brass of the producers’ sector at Anica and with the Association of Independent Authors and Producers (API). Under the previous arrangement, signed in 2004, Sky was paying roughly $30.2 million per year for the pay-TV rights for its fast-growing satellite TV network.

The present deal is retroactive to Jan. 21, 2007 and runs for 18 months, Sky Italia said in a joint statement with Anica and API. Under the arrangement, Sky Italia will buy the pay-TV rights on a sliding scale: the better the film performs at the box office the more the satcaster will pay. Sky will only consider films that sell above 20,000 tickets.

Sky has shown a healthy appetite for Italian films lately as its subscriber base swells to over 4 million, representing an audience that more closely reflects terrestrial TV rivals Mediaset and state pubcaster RAI. A Sky spokesman said the satcaster purchased 50 of the 102 Italian feature films produced in 2005.

Despite the increased investment, Sky’s commitment lags behind the biggest funders of local film — RAI Cinema and Mediaset/Medusa — which kick in roughly $66 million each for local productions.

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