The Italian Television System Explained

Italy is one of the most competitive television markets with several powerful media players

The Italian television landscape is full of broadcasting companies such as Rai — the public service, Mediaset, and other foreign international groups like Sky, Discovery and Viacom. In addition to these, the newcomer over the top providers such as Netflix and Amazon, play a relevant role in offering a wide range of contents and platforms with a considerable number of varied programmes. Moreover, looking at the latest data, there’s a relevant growth in the sales of TV advertising, especially for another young channel, La7.

Rai, Mediaset, Sky

The Italian TV system is primarily composed of three powerful integrated media groups catching the largest part of the audience.

The first one, Rai, is the oldest Italian company, the state-owned broadcaster similar to what the BBC is in the United Kingdom. Its economic revenues are based on both an annual fee and advertisement. It has exclusively free-to-air channels with educational purposes for an all-inclusive audience.

The second largest company, Mediaset, was founded by the notorious Italian businessman and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, back in 1993. Its kind of television is mainly based on entertainment for adults, families and kids. Its economic sustaniability is exclusively based on advertisement revenue and, today, it has 13 free-to-air channels and a pay tv platform called Premium, but it also operates on the radio and the press systems.

The youngest one is Sky Italy, part of the Sky Group created by the Australian businessman Rupert Murdoch. Born in 2003, it is a pay-TV with many subscribers. Its showtime has a wide portfolio of entertainment, sports and cinema channels and its financial assets are based on both subscriptions and advertisement.

Mediaset vs Sky: disputes and deals

Mediaset and Sky have some similarities between them: both have been created by two businessmen and have been managed by their prestigious and powerful families. Mediaset is directly administered by Berlusconi’s family through their holding Fininvest, whereas Sky has been managed by the Murdoch’s empire for almost thirty years – today, Comcast has outbid both 21st Century Fox and Disney, also competing for its control.

Free-to air-audience

Audience rating is the key parameter on each TV system and, albeit in recent years Mediaset has dominated the FTA audience, Sky has expanded its business on free-to-air channels too. In fact, It has three channels both on pay and free platforms — TV8, Cielo and Sky TG24 — that are direct competitors of some Mediaset top channels.

Pay tv war: Sky versus Premium

Sky is a pay-TV but also Mediaset has its own pay television platform. While Sky has some five million subscribers, Premium barely reaches the half with an average of 2,5 millions. Although they both have a wide range of channels, the main driver of dispute are the sports, mainly in the form of rights to prestigious football matches of the Uefa Champions League, the Nations League and the English Premier League. At the moment, Sky can boast the exclusive on the Italian Serie A, most of the Champions League, the Europa League, and the German Bundesliga, but also on tennis and basketball competitions, not to mention car races.

Commercial deal on TV platforms

These two companies have thus recently found a deal on TV platforms, after the recent troubles. This partnership makes the Mediaset Premium channels visible on Sky Platform, while the FTA channel Canale 5 has been recently available on channel 105 for Sky subscribers.