MILAN, April 10 Telecom Italia has signed a deal with Sky Italia to sell pay-TV content for the unit of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox to its clients from 2015, the companies said on Thursday.
The deal could make Telecom Italia's broadband offerings more attractive at a time when the phone group is carrying out costly network upgrades to boost Internet speeds and help it win customers in a recovering domestic market.
"The Sky offer becomes the key element of Telecom Italia's ultrabroadband strategy, and access to the new generation network allows Sky to benefit from an additional distribution platform for its programmes," they said in a joint statement.
Customers of Telecom Italia will be able to get all content of Sky Italia, which includes top-flight soccer and movies, at the same price without subscribing to a separate satellite package. Sky Italia currently sells pay-TV packages for a monthly fee starting at 24 euros ($33.20).
For Sky Italia, the country's biggest pay-TV operator and rival of Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, the accord will expand its reach to more clients on top of those who already receive its programmes via a satellite dish. In the quarter to the end of December, SKY Italia maintained its subscriber base at 4.76 million.
Such deals between telecom and cable operators and pay-TV players are common elsewhere in Europe. In France, Vivendi's pay-TV unit Canal+ distributes 25 percent of its subscriptions via ADSL broadband in addition to satellites.
Telecom Italia plans to invest about 3 billion euros a year in Italy in the next three years, some of which will go towards rolling out fibre optical cables and upgrading its ageing copper network. ($1 = 0.7234 Euros) (Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Leila Abboud; Editing by Hugh Lawson)