ROME — Nicola Maccanico, managing director of Warner Bros. Italy, is expected to be appointed chief of the ambitious new Italian distribution company being launched by European pay-TV platform Sky in partnership with five leading local production companies.

Maccanico, 44, is considered among the most savvy film-distribution executives in Italy. He joined Warner Bros. 12 years ago as head of marketing after working for Sky Italia as its European affairs manager.

Maccanico’s appointment as head of the new, still-unnamed distribution outfit, which will be dedicated to releasing local product theatrically, remains to be ratified. But that is expected to be a formality, according to reliable sources.

There was no comment from Sky Italia on Thursday.

Sky Italia late last month announced a partnership to set up a theatrical distribution company for Italian movies with prominent shingles Cattleya, Wildside, Lucisano Group, Palomar and Indiana Production, which together account for roughly 40% of Italy’s domestic box-office receipts. Ownership of the new distribution outfit will be split between Sky Italia with 60% and the producers with 40%.

For Sky Italia, having a theatrical distribution arm is a strategic necessity since local content is considered crucial to the growth of its pay-box service. Of the top 10 movies on its Sky Cinema channel, seven are Italian.

The two top generalist broadcasters in Italy, state broadcaster Rai and Mediaset/Medusa, both have their own theatrical distribution units. Mediaset/Medusa is controlled by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Having a third distribution player tied to a TV network is likely to break up the current dominance of Rai and Mediaset/Medusa, and shake up Italy’s somewhat static film industry. It also means that Sky Italia will no longer have to ask its competitors for pay-TV rights to Italian movies.

Sky’s sister company Fox is a top player in Italy’s theatrical distribution market but does not release Italian pics.

Mediaset/Medusa have a longstanding exclusive deal with Warner Bros., which releases a substantial number of Italian titles.

At Warner Bros. Italy, Maccanico (pictured, left) has been instrumental to increasing the U.S. studio’s local production output. Italian titles recently released locally by Warner Bros. include ensemble drama “Assolo,” directed by Laura Morante, romcom “Se mi lasci non vale,” and comedy pic “Onda su Onda,” which toplines homegrown comic star Rocco Papaleo.

Maccanico will now be in charge of maximizing box office of the Sky-driven company’s slate, which will comprise mostly mainstream Italian titles that will compete with other local pics and blockbusters from the majors.