Television remains a vital source of news and entertainment in Italy. Despite an ongoing push from online streaming services, Italy’s TV audience has not shrunk in size as drastically as it has in other countries over the past few years. In 2021, roughly 52.6 million viewers watched television daily, which marked a decline of around 600,000 compared to the previous year. Looking at the latest reported figures, TV viewership in Italy was also much higher than the European average, and particularly among older generations, the format still enjoys great popularity. Nonetheless, digital change is looming on the horizon, as it is across most of the European TV landscape.
Italy’s (pay) TV landscape at a glance
Subscription revenues of Italian pay TV groups amounted to approximately 2.9 billion euros in 2021. This figure marked a decline from 2018 and coincided with Mediaset’s withdrawal from the pay TV scene. Mediaset, one of the largest and most popular TV broadcasters in Italy, transformed its pay TV Premium offering into an OTT-only service in 2019 but still reported the highest TV ad revenue in the country. Another relevant player in the business is Sky Italia, which is owned by the largest European television group Comcast. Sky Italia offers the largest number of channels and generated roughly 2.88 billion euros in revenue in 2020. Completing the top three is state-owned public service broadcaster Rai (Radiotelevisione Italia). Rai drew the largest audience share on Italian TV in 2021, with programming funded by license fees and advertising.
Online TV is slowly transforming Italy’s TV landscape despite the country’s slow average internet speed. A 2021 survey indicates that nearly 80 percent of responding TV owners in Italy owned a smart TV, which allows viewers to stream online video content via the internet. Today, Italian audiences can choose from an ever-increasing catalog of streaming options, with Mediaset’s Canale 5 channel amassing the largest number of streams in mid-2022. On-demand video content is becoming more popular each year, and particularly among younger audiences, the benefits of streaming services firmly outweigh the perks of traditional television. Recent data highlight that the number of video-on-demand users is forecast to further increase after a dip in 2022.
Television remains a highly effective advertising platform. But while Italy ranks among the top five TV ad spenders in Europe, the industry has struggled for growth in recent years. In 2020, TV ad spend in Italy amounted to 3.14 billion U.S. dollars, marking a drop of approximately nine percent compared to the previous year. This decline was accelerated by the onset of the pandemic and the cancellation of live sporting events such as the UEFA European Football Championship, the Olympic Games, and the immensely popular Serie A soccer matches. On a more positive note, online TV ad spend in Italy keeps reaching new peaks.
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