Murdoch Mulls Italian Pay-TV U-Turn

30 May 2002

Rupert Murdoch is said to be mulling a volte-face in his attempts to make a hasty retreat from Italy’s far from lucrative pay-TV market.

Murdoch’s NewsCorp agreed earlier this year to offload Stream, the Italian pay-TV operator it jointly owns with Telecom Italia, to Vivendi Universal, owner of rival platform Telepiu.

However, Vivendi recently tried to cancel the $480 million (€515m; £328m) deal – which many onlookers suspect the French media mammoth can no longer afford – following antitrust concerns, prompting threats of legal action from Murdoch [WAMN: 17-May-02].

Now the Australian-born media mogul is contemplating turning from seller to buyer, joining with Telecom Italia to acquire Telepiu and its debts in a deal estimated at $1 billion. NewsCorp executives have reportedly been informed that embattled Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier would now prefer to dispose of the pay-TV unit rather than take on someone else’s.

However, a done deal is still some way off – Murdoch may still opt to take legal action to force Vivendi to buy, or instead break off the deal entirely and wait for Telepiu to collapse under a mountain of losses.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff