ITsART, an innovative streaming platform dubbed the ‘Netflix of Italian Culture,’ was rolled out across 26 European countries on Tuesday, with plans to expand into the U.S. and China next year.

Commissioned by Italy’s culture ministry, ITsART is an ad-supported and transactional-VOD service touted as the first streamer of its kind globally. It currently provides access to more than 1,250 live and on-demand events and shows, ranging from virtual monuments and museum tours, to opera, pop music, dance, theater and movies. Some are licensed exclusively, all are on a revenue-sharing basis.

The service, which has the stated goal of driving the spread of Italian artistic and cultural heritage content globally, was conceived during the pandemic when Italy’s cultural institutions suffered from a drop in physical visitors and tried to react with various disparate forms of digital distribution.

“Our aim is to provide a common platform that can reach a growing audience of consumers of Italian art and culture around the world, while also supporting the performing and visual arts sector,” said ITsART CEO Guido Casali at a press conference for the European launch held in Rome’s Colosseum.

“We will now focus on raising the level and depth of our content offering to make sure Italian culture is accessible for everyone.”

The ITsART platform is divided into three sections labelled Stage, Sites and Stories. Stage features more than 250 performing arts shows, some of which are live, from Italian opera houses including Milan’s La Scala, Turin’s Royal Theatre and La Fenice in Venice. The Sites section of the platform allows the viewer to travel around Italy from their home and visit iconic places such as Pompeii, Rome’s Colosseum archeological park, and Milan’s Leonardo da Vinci Museum. Meanwhile, the Stories section comprises several hundred movies, documentaries and biopics of prominent Italian cinema and culture personalities, both past and present.

Prices range from €2.90 ($3.25) for a movie to €9.90 ($11.10) for an exclusive live opera.

On the film side, besides license agreements with several local distributors, ITsArt has announced a partnership with Rome’s Cinecittà studio that will provide exclusive access to its vast Archivio Storico Luce archive and to new original docs, exhibitions and podcasts drawing from the archive materials produced by Cinecittà that will become available on the streamer in 2022. 

ITsArt is operated by Chili TV, the European on-demand film platform backed by Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox and Sony, which holds a 49% stake in the Italian culture streamer, while the majority 51% share belongs to the Italian government’s investment bank CDP (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti).