ROME — News Corp.’s Italian paybox Sky Italia saw significant growth in the last quarter despite the country’s economic crisis, which is instead impacting rival Mediaset Premium.

While Sky Italia gained just 23,000 new subscribers in the period, up to 5.03 million subs in December, profits at Rupert Murdoch’s nine-year-old satcaster rose to $6 million thanks to increased advertising and subscription intake and lower operating costs.

Sky’s growth spurt marks a substantial improvement over the $12 million operating loss reported a year ago.

By contrast Mediaset Premium, controlled by former Italo prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, is losing subs, according to results posted in November. It predicts operating losses of $66 million for fiscal 2011.

In a conference call, News Corp. chief financial officer Dave DeVoe characterized Sky Italia’s performance as “very good results given the significant slowdown of the Italian economy.”

Chief operating officer Chase Carey said Sky’s business was “pretty resistant to the economic headwinds,” but not immune. “We expect short-term growth to be impacted by Italy’s macro situation, but we are extremely bullish on the longterm potential.”