Sky-Italia eyes traditional b'cast business

Switchover to digital in Italy began Jan. 1

ROME -- Sky-Italia, the eight-year-old News Corp. subsidiary that has become a major player in the Italian television sector with a portfolio of satellite-only channels, says it wants to break into the more traditional terrestrial broadcast business.

Italy is in the process of de-emphasizing terrestrial broadcast networks in favor of high-tech digital technologies. The switchover began Jan. 1 with major broadcasters transmitting both terrestrial and digital versions of their programming. By 2011, the plan is to phase out terrestrial signals for major broadcasters in order to free up airwaves for smaller, local broadcasters.

When that happens, Sky-Italia says it wants in. The move would require a thumbs up from Italian and EU broadcasters, but the company said it believes it would get the approval it needs to offer a free version of its satellite programming on ad-supported commercial channels.