Telecom Italia launches Yalp TV

Online television community with 40,000 programs

ROME -- Telecom Italia on Tuesday unveiled Yalp, a new online television community that analysts said could illustrate the former state telephone monopoly's desire to stay in the media sector.

Yalp will open with more than 40,000 programs available on demand. The company will become part of Telecom Italia Media, the parent organization to La 7, the only national network in Italy not controlled by either Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset or state broadcaster RAI.

There has been speculation for months that Telecom Italia might decide to sell Telecom Italia Media in order to pay down its debt and focus on its core telephony business. The company has repeatedly declined comment on its plans for Telecom Italia Media.

But analysts said that the decision to launch Yalp likely means the company is warming to the media sector.

"A company doesn't open up a new subsidiary in a sector it is interested in abandoning," said Javier Noriega, chief economist with investment bankers Hildebrandt and Ferrar.

Telecom Italia Media's shares closed down 0.6% in moderate trading Tuesday, ending the session at 12 eurocents (19 cents).