News unit wins Italy Olympic rights, seeks partner

Mon Feb 25, 2008 2:44pm EST
 
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MILAN (Reuters) - Sky Italia, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, has won the Italian broadcasting rights to the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 and the London Summer Olympics in 2012 and is looking for a free-to-air partner, it said on Monday.

"We will immediately start talks to find the best partner among television operators who do not charge as a partner for this project," Tom Mockridge, chief executive officer of Sky Italia, said in a statement announcing the deal.

Italy's free-to-air television services are dominated by the country's largest private broadcaster, Mediaset, and state television company Rai.

Mediaset has about 39 percent of viewership, while Rai has some 43 percent and Sky Italia has 2.76 percent, according to January figures from research group Auditel.

Telecom Italia Media, owned by giant telecommunications company Telecom Italia, runs small non-pay channels La7 and MTV Italia.

"We aim and will work to make the Olympic Games available on all platforms, guaranteeing Italians the chance to see coverage comparable to previous Olympics on free-to-air channels," Mockridge added.

Mediaset, which is controlled by opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, saw advertising revenues suffer in 2006 when it lost out on two major sporting events -- the Winter Olympics in Turin and the Soccer World Cup -- to Rai.

Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and two allies have a clear lead in polls ahead of elections on April 13-14.

Sky Italia gave no financial details of the deal.

"Sky has shown an incomparable commitment to promote the games and the Olympic values," Thomas Bach, deputy chairman of the International Olympic Committee, said in the statement.

(Reporting by Jo Winterbottom, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

 
<p>Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2008. Sky Italia, owned by Murdoch's News Corp, has won the Italian broadcasting rights to the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 and the London Summer Olympics in 2012 and is looking for a free-to-air partner, it said on Monday. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>