Italy digital TV licence auction seen by mid-year

ROME Wed Feb 5, 2014 1:18pm EST

ROME Feb 5 (Reuters) - Italy will probably hold its planned auction of digital television frequency licences by the middle of the year, Deputy Industry Minister Antonio Catricala said on Wednesday.

Three, 20-year licences for so-called multiplex groups of channels transmitted on digital bandwidth are due to be auctioned, with the combined base price for the three blocs set at 90.75 million euros ($122.81 million), Catricala told a Senate hearing.

"It is very likely that the operation will end up being completed by the summer," he said.

The auction rules will favour new entrants and small operators, which will be free to bid for all three packages on offer while groups which already hold two multiplexes will be eligible to bid for two packages.

In a measure which would allow News Corp's Italian pay TV unit, Sky Italia, to bid, groups with a market share of more than 50 percent of the pay TV segment would be eligible to bid for a single multiplex.

The bigger groups which already hold three or more multiplexes, including Mediaset, RAI and Telecom Italia , are ruled out of bidding.