Youth demo drives Sky Italia

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SALERNO, Italy -- Pay TV broadcaster Sky Italia's growth among young viewers has outstripped its overall growth rate, according to statistics issued by the News Corp. subsidiary.

The stats show that Sky's market share of viewers ages 4-14 surged to 16.8% at the start of April, compared with 3.9% at the start of 2003, when the company was formed by the merger of two pay TV rivals.

Over the same span, Silvio Berlusconi's commercial TV network Mediaset's share of the same demographic shrank from 50.9% to 46.2%, and that of state broadcaster RAI from 36.8% to 28.3%, as Sky Italia continued to siphon away market share, the survey said.

Sky Italia released the statistics during the April 19-22 Cartoons on the Bay festival at a briefing called to outline the creation of "Cultoon," a new channel aimed at young viewers that is set to go on air May 1. The channel will be Sky Italia's 15th aimed at the youngest demographic -- more than any category aside from sports channels.

Though the company is experiencing rapid growth in Italy as the technology required to receive its signal becomes more widespread, a Sky Italia spokesman said in an interview that the youngest demographic is the company's fastest growing, rivaled only by the smaller demographic that watches cultural programming.

"That is the secret of Sky's growth, small children and adults interested in cultural programs," the spokesman said.

Sky Italia was started in 2003 from the fusion of French-owned Telepiu and Stream, Murdoch's original startup in Italy. The company has enjoyed a quick growth rate since, recording 4 million subscribers by late 2006.
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