A hostile takeover bid by Italian computing and
telecommunications firm Olivetti SpA for national telco Telecom Italia SpA is further
complicating a solution for TI's troubled pay TV platform, Stream. But the service is
attracting potential suitors.
France's Canal Plus S.A. said it is launching a bid to
buy out Stream's 90,000 satellite-subscriber base. Under that deal, it would also
supply Stream's 70,000 cable subscribers with programming from Telepiú, the Italian
direct-to-home service that it partially owns.
At the same time, the Italian press is reporting that News
Corp. Europe -- headed by former state broadcaster RAI president Letizia Moratti -- has
taken a renewed interest in Stream.
And Italian film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori, who also
owns two terrestrial TV networks, is still trying to put together a new consortium to save
Stream that could include Warner Bros. Television.
Stream, which has racked up costs of $700 million, has been
on the rocks since RAI decided to invest in Telepiú rather than in Stream. News Corp.
Europe also pulled out of a provisional deal to take a stake in Stream following the
imposition of antitrust limits on the soccer rights it that wanted.
TI president Franco Bernabè has said that he expects to
make an announcement about Stream's future soon. Analysts believe that a deal will
most likely be made with Canal Plus or with News Corp.
Potential suitors are nervous about Stream's ability
to compete against strongly backed Telepiú, which is far ahead, with 1.4 million
Canal Plus hopes that European antitrust authorities will
not block its bid for Stream's satellite subscribers. It's also inviting Stream
to take a minority stake in Telepiú, through part of the 45 percent that's going to
But the prospect of a Canal Plus deal with Stream could
create a new conundrum for Italy's legislators, who put the antitrust limits on
soccer rights in an attempt to avoid a monopoly situation.
It could also make the conditions to establish a second
digital-TV platform in Italy even more difficult.
A Stream spokeswoman declined to comment. Olivetti said it
would seek partners to maintain Stream as an independent platform if its bid is