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By | November 29, 2000

      A new satellite battle is set to ignite the Italian market, but this time it will not involve pay-TV operators Tele+ and Stream. Internet via satellite pioneer is set to get a new rival in the form of multimedia TV producer Alboran, which has announced plans to launch 100 TV thematic TV channels via the Internet by March 2001.

      Alboran is convinced it has two major cards up its sleeve. The first is economic – Italian financier and owner of bank Mediolanum, Ennio Doris, recently became a shareholder, paying L4.5 billion (E2.32 million) for a 30 per cent stake. The second is technological – the WebTV venture will use an exclusive standard called A-format, which enables live transmissions of high quality multimedia content to any PC.

      The other shareholders of Alboran are Merak Film (leading company for dubbing cartoons) and Giuseppe Mascitelli – both with a 30 per cent stake – while the remaining 10 per cent is held by the management. Alboran hopes to close the current financial year with a turnover of L2.5 billion and revenues of around L100 million. A floatation of the company is not expected before 2002.

      For the past 20 years, Alboran has been active in the TV production and dubbing sectors. Now, through its newly launched subsidiary Planet Alboran, it aims to become a leading content provider and TV producer for high speed Internet.

      Alboran will thus be the first European company to offer programmes or thematic channels produced exclusively for the Web and aimed at a heterogeneous audience.

      “Our niche channels are aimed at all,” says company president Mascitelli. “But we are relying a lot on young people, the core audience of some of our TV productions.”

      Mascitelli says that the company was awaiting the arrival of broadband to launch, but that things were moving very slowly. “We were losing hope. Seven to nine years will be needed to cable up Italy. ADSL seemed an excellent alternative, but it is still in a monopoly position and things are not moving forward. Then we found the solution we were looking for – satellite,” added Mascitelli. Alboran is currently in negotiations with satellite operator Eutelsat, whose satellites carry both Italian pay-TV packages.

      An agreement with Eutelsat would give Alboran the competitive edge over Netsystem (which chose rival Astra) since the huge majority of dishes installed in Italy are pointed at the 13 degrees East orbital position.

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