Mediaset to launch U.S. channel

Italo content targeted at Italian Americans

Mediaset, the Italo broadcast group owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has launched a U.S. cable TV channel.

Mediaset Italia provides Italian-language content in a bid to attract the nation’s 15 million Italian Americans.

News, soccer, entertainment and fiction from Mediaset’s Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 channels will be beamed to the U.S. “just hours after the original broadcast in Italy,” according to the company. The channel has been launched with International Media Distribution, which specializes in providing foreign-language content to U.S. audiences. A spokeswoman for IMD said an advertising campaign would follow when a distribution channel had been decided.

Patricio Teubal, head of sales at Mediaset, said: “We’re very proud to be able to serve Italian Americans with the highest-quality Italian programming. Holding more than 40% viewership among the Italian public, we will bring to the U.S. the best of such programs through Mediaset Italia.”

There are plans to broadcast Mediaset Italia in other countries.

Mediaset terrestrial content is far from cutting edge. But strategists in the firm’s Milan headquarters hope the product’s novelty value and quintessential Italianness will appeal to expats and other Italian speakers.

Leading Italo TV analyst Augusto Preta of Rome-based IT-Media Consulting, added that the development was consistent with recent Mediaset strategy. “Mediaset is looking to extend its business overseas because the mature state of the Italian market won’t permit the company to continue growing there, so we’ve seen investments in China, Germany, Spain and North Africa,” he said.

“The move into the U.S. responds to the same need, but there’s one advantage — lower production costs, because all the programs have already been made. The extra outlay comes only from the need for time-shifting.”

Mediaset has 14 TV channels — including pay-per-view, web and mobile TV, as well production subsidiaries operating in television and cinema. International assets in the industry include ownership of production giant Endemol, and TV channels in Spain, Tunisia and the U.S.