In the context of a media system characterised by deep changes, the Italian television sector has been able to strengthen its leadership, both in economic terms and the volume of consumers. Confirming this Italian preference for television, a 2015 study by SWG for AGCOM found that 96% of the population accessed television in the week before the survey. Traditional television (with a digital decoder) was the most frequently used with 90% of viewers, followed by satellite television’s 32% share. A growing percentage of viewers also indicated that they enjoy digital delivery through personal computers, 29% of respondents; smartphones, 16% of respondents; and, tablets, 12% of respondents.
In terms of content, Italian viewers can choose from more than 230 national free and subscription channels, as well as an average of 100 local channels for each provincial district. Online audiovisual offerings are gradually gaining ground, mainly due to the supply of subscription streaming and on-demand services. For the time being, however, online television is still too small to challenge the dominant market position of more traditional television services.
Advertisements provide the main revenue source for television service providers. In 2015, advertising accounted for 41% of total revenues, followed by paid-for content at 38%, and public funding at 21%. Almost 90% of these revenues - equal to €7.8 billion - fell into the hands of the three main players: Rupert Murdoch’s Sky group accounted for 33%; the Berlusconi family’s Fininvest/Mediaset group held 28.4%; and, RAI controlled 27.8%. As for the remaining 10%, it was divided among Discovery group, with 2.3; Cairo Communication, with 1.5%; and other minor players. Breaking these figures down further, advertising expenditure made up for the majority of free-to-air revenues, at 64%, followed by license fees, which contributed to 36% of revenues. Conversely, the business model used by paid-for television outlets is mainly focused on selling services to the end user, with this accounting for 90% of total revenues. RAI occupies a special position since it can benefit from a public support through its licence fees that are equal to 70% of its total revenues, as well as revenues derived from selling advertising time.
Revenue share for services in each of these business model categories is highly concentrated among a few major players. RAI and Mediaset held 48% and 35% of the total revenues for the free-to-air market in 2015, followed by Discovery’s 3.7%, Cairo Communication’s 2.6%, and Sky group ‘s 0.9%. Conversely, Sky and Mediaset dominate the subscription market with shares of 75.8% and 19.4% respectively.
Finally, in 2015, Italy’s television audience reached a level of 10.4 million “viewers in the average day”. Of these, 37% watch RAI and 32% watch Fininvest/Mediaset. Discovery and Sky groups held a share of 6% and 5% respectively, followed by Cairo Communication with less than 4% of the market. In the last five years however, Sky and Discovery are the two players which have gained the largest percentage of audience at 2.2% and 5.3% of total viewers, whereas RAI and Mediaset have lost 4.1% and 5.2% each.