Sky Is Said to Plan High-Speed Broadband Service for ItalyBy and
Pay-TV provider in talks with Open Fiber for network access
A deal may be reached in October, service starting next year
The European pay-TV company is in talks to partner with wholesale network operator Open Fiber SpA for the service, said the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are confidential. A deal may be reached in October and Sky could start the new offer, similar to what the broadcaster has in the U.K., as early as the first quarter of next year, one of the people said. Open Fiber is a joint venture between utility Enel SpA and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
Broadband has helped Sky add customers and revenue in the U.K. by selling internet access packaged with phone service, and entertainment like sports, TV series and movies. An alliance with Open Fiber would let Sky do the same Italy, while countering a planned push into content by broadband leader Telecom Italia.
A spokesman for Open Fiber declined to comment. A Sky representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sky, facing rising costs for premium sports content like Premier League soccer and competition for viewers from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., has pushed aggressively into Internet service in the U.K. The company reported more than 6 million broadband customers across the U.K. and Ireland in January, and said last month that 27 percent of those subscribers are using fiber connections.
A similar development in Italy would be a clear threat to Telecom Italia, which like many of its European peers is adding content such as sports to boost monthly bills and retain customers. Telecom Italia is discussing creating a pay-TV channel in Italy with Vivendi SA’s Canal Plus, people familiar with the matter said last month. Paris-based Vivendi, Telecom Italia’s largest shareholder, is trying to build a Southern European content hub using its stake in the former phone monopoly.
Currently, Telecom Italia offers its broadband customers content from Sky, Italy’s pay-TV leader. Sky has similar marketing partnerships with other broadband providers in Italy, including Vodafone Group Plc and Fastweb SpA, a unit of Swisscom AG.
London-based Sky, which is being acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., has also delved into the U.K. wireless market, starting a mobile-phone service using Telefonica SA’s O2 network last November.
For the fiscal year ended June 30, Sky Italia reported revenue of 2.46 billion pounds ($3.25 billion) and operating profit of 136 million pounds. Sky has about 4.8 million subscribers in Italy. Its pay-TV rivals in Italy include Mediaset SpA’s pay-TV business Mediaset Premium.