Rupert Murdoch on Thursday embarked on his latest satellite-TV venture with the launch of Sky Italia.

The media mogul has lofty ambitions for the new Italian pay-TV platform. Managing director Tom Mockridge has set a long-term subscriber target of ten million – a total that could seriously dent the near-monopoly of the nation’s TV market enjoyed by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

As Italy’s premier media tycoon, Berlusconi controls broadcast group Mediaset; as Italy’s premier, he controls state service RAI. Between them they attract around 90% of the country’s TV audience.

However, Sky Italia (of which Murdoch is chairman) has some way to go to meet such ambitions, with its initial reach estimated at just 400,000.

The platform is the result of a merger between News Corporation’s Stream and Vivendi Universal’s Telepiu. Although Sky hopes to inherit nearly all the subscribers to these two operators (between 2.3 million and 2.5m in total), the vast majority are on holiday and have so far not completed the required resubscription process. Nevertheless, the platform is aiming for 3.5m subscribers within a year.

Sky is hoping to emulate the success of British sibling BSkyB, which is 35.4%-owned by NewsCorp and now claims 6.7m customers. The Italian platform has already put soccer – the key to BSkyB’s success – at the heart of its line-up.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff