NEW TMC TV OWNER PLANS DIGITAL TV VENTURE
Italian portal and Yellow Pages publisher Seat Pagine Gialle has agreed to buy 75 per cent of terrestrial TV broadcaster TMC for L750 billion (E387 million). Seat, which is merging with Telecom Italia’s Web unit Tin.it, said it would pay for 25 per cent of TMC and sister channel TMC2 via a capital increase of L250 billion (E129.11m) and the rest with the issue of new Seat shares.
Although, the two TMC channels have only about a 3 per cent audience share and have lost L500 billion (E258.23m) in the last four years, their acquisition by Seat-Tin.it is considered as the forerunner of a new era in Italian TV, currently dominated by pubcaster RAI and private rival Mediaset. TMC owner, film and TV conglomerate Cecchi Gori Group and Seat-Tin.it will collaborate on a number of joint projects that will maximise the synergy between Cecchi Gori’s vast film library and Seat-Tin.it’s Web portal. Cecchi Gori will retain a 25 per cent stake in TMC and will hold a 75 per cent stake in a new digital TV joint venture.
Digital TV represents a first love for Cecchi Gori. At one time his media group owned a 10 per cent stake in pay-TV operator Tele+, of which Vittorio Cecchi Gori was president for a period of time, before selling the remaining 4.5 per cent stake to German media magnate Leo Kirch, after failing to subscribe to two capital increases. Several years later, Cecchi Gori became a shareholder in Stream, both directly and indirectly through SDS, a consortium founded together with the presidents of the Lazio, Roma and Parma football clubs.
The deal, which must be approved by the Antitrust and Communications Authorities, has already sparked protest from rival broadcaster Mediaset (owned by opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi). Mediaset claims that the purchase violates an Italian law that prohibits companies holding telecoms concessions from owning free-to-air TV companies. However, Communications Minister Salvatore Cardinale commented that the government approved of Seat’s proposal to buy TMC, as a third TV force would boost competition in Italy, bringing advantages to consumers.
Meanwhile, Telecom Italia president Roberto Colannino has announced that the re-launched TMC TV network will be based on two channels – one targeting a younger audience (15-35 age group), while the second will be a news and information channel.