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Mediaset ‘better than expected’ on DTH
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Mediaset ‘better than expected’ on DTH - 04-August-2009, 12:21

Chris Forrester

Mediaset’s cluster of network commercial channels are suffering from the advertising downturn just like everywhere else in Europe. Nevertheless, the group, controlled by family interests of Silvio Berlusconi, has just delivered a good set of results, exceeding consensus forecasts. The reason? The strong performance of its pay-TV operation, now in fierce competition with Sky Italia.

Mediaset’s core network business suffered an 11.9% y-o-y drop in Net Advertising Revenues, and this on already depressed numbers from 2008. But a shining light at Mediaset is its new pay-TV business which showed remarkable gains, with revenues up 44.9% at €269m. Earnings remain modest for this start-up operation (a €21m loss) but the trend is in the right direction says a note from Morgan Stanley.

There’s been “significant” Mediaset promotional activity in Italy, especially in the case of the 1.8m pre-paid smart cards that needed to be converted by July 1, says the bank, with – again – all the signs that the task has succeeded. The bank’s report says the number of active users reached 3.5m at the end of June, 23% up on last December’s figure.

Mediaset’s management have reported that net new additions in July were “much better than expected” although everything now hangs on whether August – the soccer season kicks off on August 22 – will also do well. However, management “sounded confident” says the bank’s note.

But soccer is key. On July 29, the Italian football league announced that Mediaset and Sky Italia had won the key football packages. “Mediaset paid €435m in return for the DTT and IPTV rights for 2 seasons, €210m for 2009/10 and €235m for 2010/11,” says Morgan Stanley. “This was almost exactly inline with the €433m we were going for (€203m for 2009/10e and €230m for 2010/11e). €435m represented roughly a 30% increase on the previous prices paid by Mediaset but the packages newly acquired are of higher quality than the old ones. Last season for instance, Premium showed the home and away matches of 6 top teams plus 4 home only matches. The newly acquired packages will allow Premium to show the home and away matches for the top ten football teams plus two other teams which are yet to be picked. We believe Mediaset paid a respectable price for higher quality content,” concludes the bank.
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