RAI buy emblematic of quality shift

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ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI on Tuesday said it has purchased a four-part adventure series from new U.K.-based distributor Espresso TV, adding that it is on the lookout for more short series as it seeks to shift to what it says is a slate of higher-quality programming.

The series -- four 30-minute programs titled "Because It's There" -- tracks the adventures of a small group of travelers on a journey that includes Tibet, the deserts of Mongolia and the North Atlantic.

Additionally, Espresso TV announced the sale of a six-part series of hourlong programs called "Fighting the Blue" to satellite broadcaster Fox-Italia, but the News Corp. subsidiary would not comment.

The RAI deal appears to be the first of several of this type. RAI said it is planning to shift toward more high-quality programming in its battle against private broadcaster Mediaset, which is known for a slate of reality programs, game shows and slapstick humor. The broadcaster said in November that it will remove advertising from two of its three national networks by 2009 in order to free them from commercial concerns.

"RAI is making a conscious decision to seek more elevated programming and the new purchase is part of that effort," an RAI spokesman said in an interview.

The deals are Espresso's first each with the two Italian broadcasters. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
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