Italy's Mediaset Faces Down Sky With New Pay TV Company

Mediaset is betting Italians want more soccer and fewer series

Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, under pressure from the newly-merged pay-TV giant Sky Europe, is upping its own game.

The Italian media group is spinning off its premium pay-TV operations, transferring its pay-TV business to a new company, Mediaset Premium Spa, as of Dec. 1, 2014.

Mediaset subsidiary RTI will hold a 88.89 percent stake in the new company, with 11.11 percent controlled by Spanish group Telefonica.

The move comes in the wake of the three-way pay-TV merger between Sky Italia, Germany's Sky Deutschland and BSkyB (renamed Sky) in the U.K.. The new European pay-TV giant, which will serve 20 million subscribers in three territories, is billing itself as Europe’s top TV content investor, reaching HBO-levels of investment in original drama programming.

This has put pressure on Mediaset to hold onto its Italian pay-TV subscriber base. In doing so, the company looks to be focusing more on sports than series. Berlusconi's company holds Italian rights to several premium soccer tournaments, including the Europa League.  While Sky Italia also shows sports, the channel's USP is original programming. Alongside imported series such as HBO's Game of Thrones, Sky has developed a reputation for home-grown original shows such as mafia drama Gomorrah, and the upcoming political thriller 1992

Mediaset has also been increasing its technology investments across its properties. They recently launched an Android and iOS app for its Mediaset international channel, which offers global streaming of the best content from its channels for around $7 a month.

On November 26, shareholders will meet to elect a new Board of Directors. Mediaset Premium Spa will be comprised of 267 employees who are already employed by Mediaset. Franco Ricci, who already oversees Mediaset’s pay TV activities, will serve as managing director of the new company.

Mediaset did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter: @Aristonla

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