Telecom Italia’s board approved plans to intensify the company’s content play and investigate the viability of spinning-off its fixed network – in an apparent bid to placate Italian authorities.
In a statement outlining its key measures for 2018 to 2020, Telecom Italia confirmed talks were ongoing with broadcaster Mediaset and other providers to expand its video service for fixed and mobile customers.
Telecom Italia also revealed it was assessing various network separation models used around the world to see if similar measures could “unlock value” in its own fixed network.
The examination of options for its fixed assets follows increasing pressure from Italian regulators, which have repeatedly voiced concerns about the level of competition in the country’s telecoms sector.
In October, Reuters reports revealed Italy’s communications regulator Agcom was assessing measures to force Telecom Italia to create an independent company for its fixed assets. Later in the month Telecom Italia chairman Arnaud de Puyfontaine confirmed the company was working with authorities to resolve the issue.
Calls for network separation in Italy are nothing new, however Agcom ramped the pressure in recent months as it takes an increasingly close look at Telecom Italia and its relationship with largest shareholder Vivendi.
Vivendi is in an ongoing dispute with Italy’s authorities over who controls Telecom Italia and, as a result, the government imposed “golden power” over it – placing special requirements on the operator’s management.
In a related issue, Vivendi is also at loggerheads with Agcom over its interest in Mediaset. In addition to owning a 24 per cent stake in Telecom Italia, the French company is Mediaset’s second largest shareholder with a 28.8 per cent share.
In April, Agcom ordered Vivendi to cut its stake in either company to meet Italy’s strict media ownership rules. Discussions on the issue are ongoing.
Vivendi is also embroiled in a legal dispute with Mediaset over a decision not to buy Italian pay-TV unit Premium in 2016.
A fresh report by Reuters indicated the new content deal could help resolve tensions between Vivendi and Mediaset’s largest shareholder.