Despite the erosion of the audience shares of the main channels of the two incumbent groups (RAI and Mediaset) and the proliferation of special-interest channels, Italy remains the country in Europe where levels of concentration of the television audience market share remain very high. The various channels operated by these groups had a combined market share of 76.8% in 2011, which was without equal in Europe. According to the communications regulator AGCOM, the two groups shared 85% of the resources of the national television sector in 2011. The channels operated by Sky Italia obtained a 6% market share and those run by Telecom Italia Media 4.1%. (Audience data source : Eurodata TV Worldwide / Auditel / AGB Nielsen Media Research Italy).
The Mediaset group controls 42 Italian channels (including one international channel). It also has assets in Spain: in addition to the channel Telecinco, it took control of Cuatro in 2010 and acquired a 22% stake in the satellite operator Digital+. In Tunisia, it has a stake in the channel Nessma TV. Through its subsidiaries Sky Italia and Fox Italia, News Corporation operates more than 90 channels in Italy, 25 of them targeting other countries. The subsidiary Fox International also broadcasts channels to Germany, the Benelux countries and the Baltic countries.
Regarding distribution, Italy is a country historically characterised by the predominance of the reception of terrestrial transmissions. According to DGTVI, 94.1% of Italian homes were equipped to receive DTT in January 2012. The analogue switch-off throughout the country was completed on 4 July 2012, the last regions being Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Basilicata and Sicily. According to data from GfK, 58.4 million households were equipped to receive DTT at the end of December 2011.
In anticipation of the full switchoff, on 24 March 2011, AGCOM launched a public consultation on the deliberations of the authority that determine the procedure for allocating frequencies freed up as part of the digital dividend and for the other frequencies available for mobile broadband systems. Finally, in its judgment of 28 July 2011 the Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed an appeal by Mediaset SpA, a digital terrestrial programme broadcaster, against a judgment of the General Court of 15 June 2010 in Case T177/07. The judgment reaffirmed that subsidies granted to consumers in Italy for the purchase of certain digital terrestrial television decoders should be qualified as unlawful State aid, as the subsidy was favouring Mediaset’s terrestrial programme over its rivals’ satellite programmes, especially Sky Italia, which initiated the complaint.
The DTT network is made up of fifteen multiplexes offering a large number of free and paid channels. In November 2012, over forty freetoair channels and some fifty paid channels were transmitted on the national DTT network – these are higher figures than those encountered in other European markets. In addition to the national channels, about 200 local channels were available free of charge on local DTT in 2010.
Two national pay-TV platforms and several other regional platforms coexist in Italy. The market leader is the Mediaset Premium platform (Mediaset group), which provides payperview football channels, film channels and children’s channels. Mediaset claimed to have 2.9 million subscribers as at 30 September 2011 (compared with 3.9 million at 31 December 2010). In addition to the thirty or so channels that it transmits, Mediaset Premium has offered the ondemand television service Premium on Demand since November 2009. The service was rebranded Premium Play in February 2011 and offers 2000 programmes on demand, some of them in HD or 3D, as well as catchup television services. The second platform is operated by Centro Europa 7, which in October 2010 launched a package of a dozen channels transmitted in the DVBT2 standard under the name Europa 7 HD. The platform Dahlia TV, which replaced the service Cartapiù, (operated by Telecom Italia), in March 2009, discontinued its service in February 2011.
Three quarters of Italian homes still depended on the terrestrial reception of television services at the end of 2011. The nonterrestrial multichannel platform market is not very competitive in Italy. In the absence of a cable network, the country relies on satellite television and IPTV.
In September 2012, AGCOM’s register of satellite licences contained 274 channels. The satellite TV market is mainly controlled by Sky Italia (News Corporation). Sky claimed that its package had 5 million subscribers in October 2011, but the number of subscribers has declined since to reach 4.86 million at the end of September 2012. The platform, which suffered in 2010 from competition from pay-DTT packages, especially Mediaset Premium (which, like Sky, holds rights to broadcast Italian football), has returned to growth. Modelled on the Freesat package in the UK, TivùSat offers free access to the Italian freetoair DTT channels. The company tivù S.r.l. is 48% owned by RAI, 48% by Mediaset and 4% by Telecom Italia. The package had 751 000 subscribers at the end of 2010.
The already limited broadband TV market (IPTV) collapsed in 2012. Fastweb, which had pioneered this form of distribution in Europe, closed its service down in November 2012, after announcing in September 2011 that it had 240 000 subscribers. Wind also closed down its Infostrada TV service in June 2012, so the only provider remaining in this segment is Telecom Italia, whose subscriber base fell from 406 000 in September 2009 to 242 000 in March 2012.
Relations between the different operators are continuing to lead to a large number of court cases. In June 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Italy for failing to guarantee the rights of Centro Europa 7, thus confirming the judgment already delivered on the subject in 2008 by the European Court of Justice.
Sky challenged a 2009 decision by which the Italian communications regulator stated that RAI’s choice to (i) encrypt its public service programming on the Sky platform and (ii) allow the view of its programs only to the subscribers of the free satellite platform called TivuSat - managed by the company Tivù S.r.l., which was established by RAI, Mediaset and Telecom Italia Media - does not constitute a violation of law.
The Italian administrative Court, even though it has deemed that article 26 of the previous Charter of Services for the period 2007/2009 – which was in force at the time of the alleged facts – imposed on RAI the obligation to supply its channels for free to all distribution platforms (duty of must offer) in order to guarantee, in consideration of the digital switch over process, the achievement of the best, broadest and easiest access by citizens to public service broadcasting, has instead interpreted article 22 of the Charter of Services now in force (period 2010/2012) in the sense that:
(i) there is no obligation upon RAI to supply its channels to distribution platforms for free, but only the duty for the public broadcaster to supply its programming to at least one distribution platform of each technological platform; and
(ii) RAI can (but is not obliged to) allow the making available of its programmes of public service on all commercial platforms requesting it on fair, transparent and non-discriminatory negotiations and on the basis of the conditions verified by the competent Authorities.
Moreover, the judgement confirmed that article 22 of the actual Charter of Service does not introduce any prearranged discrimination against Sky, confirming the full legitimacy of the establishment of the satellite platform TivuSat. In other words, the administrative judge did not bring into question the effectiveness of article 22 of the actual Charter of Service; therefore RAI has the faculty and not the duty to make available its programming to commercial platforms requesting it. Regarding tivùsat viewing cards, RAI stopped their distribution through its regional branches due to the fact that the Court, in its decision, regarded as illegitimate the provision of article 22 of the Charter of Service in the part imposing on RAI a duty to promote the satellite platform Tivusat. As a consequence, the distribution of the said smart cards by the company Tivu is regularly continuing. The appeal against the judgement is still pending.
Even the channel numbering scheme established for DTT by the authority was the subject of an appeal to the Council of State, which held that it did not comply with the rules. In November 2012, the press carried a report on a letter sent by the European Commissioners Almunia and Kroes criticising Italy for failing to implement the 2009 agreement on the redistribution of the terrestrial frequencies.
In 2012, there were also various amendments to regulatory provisions concerning the transposition of the AVMSD (on the protection of minors, film trailers and the duration of extracts concerning major events).
This description was last updated in November 2012. The rest of the data in MAVISE is continuously updated