13.00 Update: Mediaset has filed a suit with the Italian Antitrust Authority claiming that Sky Italia’s USB key is in breach of national and international competition regulations.
The Berlusconi-controlled company says the device is in violation of commitments made by News Corp in 2003 when it acquired the combined interests of Telepiù and Stream. It also says Sky has broken a commitment not to engage in DTT activities until 2011.
Sky plans to launch its USB stick in December, the device plugging into its HD receivers, and enabling terrestrial reception of Mediaset and RAI channels that have been lost since the launch of the TivùSat platform in August when they were removed from the Sky package.
“The aim of the Digital Dongle – that does not provide access either to interactive services or paid content – is to halt the spread on the market of decoders that make it possible to receive the pay-TV programmes and interactive services of other operators. All of which is clearly against the interests of consumers, in that it limits choice in terms of offer and content,” read a Mediaset statement, arguing that the key created a barrier to entry.
Sky Italia chief executive Tom Mockridge responded by saying that the key would help the process of digitisation in the market by providing a timely response to market needs. “This is a development that, evidently, is not easy to accept for a group like Mediaset that for many years has been, and still is today, the main private subject operating in Italian commercial television and dominant in the advertising market.”
It is not the first time that DTT has been used to enhance a satellite platform when popular channels have been absent from a bouquet. In the late 1990s Canal Digital launched a hybrid DTT receiver to pick up the terrestrial signals of MTG’s TV3.