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Tiscali TV's Italian cousin gets whacked

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Tiscali has told subscribers it will close its Italian IPTV service, raising questions over the future of its apparently unpopular UK equivalent.

The firm told its about 50,000 Italian TV customers in a letter that broadband channels will go blank at the end of December and the final month's subscription refunded. No reason was given for the sudden closure of the service, which was launched in mid-2007.

Tiscali UK bought into IPTV with the £100m acquisition of Homechoice in 2006. Just over year ago, Tiscali's UK boss Mary Turner said it would have 200,000 TV subscribers by the end of 2008. At the time we thought she was very ambitious, as the signs were already poor for IPTV in the UK and Tiscali was starting from a falling base of 36,000.

Since then, no new numbers have been made available. Tiscali UK's overall broadband subscriber base has been falling however, which would seem to cast significant growth in TV take up as very unlikely.

Tiscali UK's drop in subscribers in 2008 is in part due to successful entries into the ADSL market by Sky and O2, but also to lengthy attempts by its Italian parent company to sell it, which has seemingly put strategic and marketing efforts on hold.

The still-on auction is also likely to forestall any decision over the future of Tiscali UK's IPTV service. The service seems vulnerable whether Italian executives are able to cut a deal with any of the potential buyers (Sky, Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone) or not, however.

Tiscali UK's press representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

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