Sky Italia in black for first time

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ROME -- For the first time since pay TV was launched in Italy in 1991, a company operating in the sector has turned a profit, according to satellite broadcaster Sky Italia.

The News Corp. unit does not report its financial results separate from those of its parent company, but according to media reports confirmed by Sky Italia officials Tuesday, the company finally finished in the black for the first six months of the year, after reporting a narrow loss for 2006.

Sky Italia, the only major operator in the sector, was formed in 2003 from the merger of French-owned Telepiu and News Corp. subsidiary Stream.

Telepiu, founded in 1991, was the first company to operate in the sector, and it never approached profitability during its 12-year history.

With a reported €2.3 billion ($3.3 billion) in revenue last year, Sky Italia is Italy's third-largest broadcaster, though it still trails Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI by a large margin.

The news comes as Sky Italia is aggressively expanding its user base, reaching 4.3 million subscribers at midyear compared with 1.2 million in 2003. The company expects to top 5 million subscribers next year.
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