Netflix to Pay $59 Million in Italian Tax Dispute

Netflix has reportedly agreed to pay $59 million to settle an Italian tax dispute regarding the streaming pioneer’s use of infrastructure in the European country.

Reuters, citing sources, said Netflix has agreed to pay taxes for the period from Oct. 2015 to 2019 — when Milan officials claim the service used servers and backend technology in the country to deliver content to about two subscribers. Netflix had claimed it didn’t have to pay local taxes since it didn’t have any physical presence in the country.

In a statement to Reuters, Netflix admitted no wrongdoing, saying, “We have maintained constant dialogue and cooperation with the Italian authorities and continue to believe that we have acted in full compliance with Italian and international rules.”

Netflix this month opened an Italian office that now reportedly employs about 40 people catering to about 5 million subscribers and local content production.

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Netflix Opens Italian Office

Netflix’s international charm offensive continues. The subscription streaming video behemoth has opened an Italian office in Rome, with plans to up local content production.

The move comes after the service reported a net loss of 200,000 subscribers globally in the first quarter, ended March 31. The streamer lost 300,000 subs across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That prompted co-CEO Reed Hastings to board the company jet and personally welcome the Italian press.

“Today we celebrate our new Italian home, our growing business in Italy, the creative community we are so honored to be part of, and all of the fantastic Italian stories on our upcoming slate,” Hasting told the Italian media. “The breadth and variety of our Italian slate perfectly represents our ambitions — new series, films, documentaries and unscripted shows from Italy’s most prestigious creatives and exciting new voices. Stories that are Made in Italy and watched by the world.”

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Hastings explained his longtime Italian connection began 15 years ago when he moved his family there for 12 months while he ran Netflix’s by-mail DVD rental business.

“I was so amazed to come visit here,” Hastings said. “At the end of that year we had so many great memories.”

Netflix original Italian content includes a pending series based on the classic novel Il Gattopardo; holiday series I Hate Christmas, an unnamed animated series, and a show about the biggest lottery scam in Italian history.

Netflix original Italian movies include Robbing Mussolini, the revenge film My Name is Vendetta, and romantic comedies Love & Gelato and Under the Amalfi Sun. Other content includes documentary series “Wanna” from Fremantle, race-walking doc “Running for the Truth: Alex Schwazer,” and reality series “Summer Job.”

Current Netflix Italian series include “Lidia Poet,” “Brigands,” “The Lying Life of Adults,” “Tutto Chiede Salvezza,” “Framed! A Sicilian Murder Mystery,” “SKAM Italia” and “Di4ries,” among others.

Fellini Classic ‘La Dolce Vita’ Headed to Blu-ray With New Intro by Martin Scorsese

Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic La Dolce Vita will be released on Blu-ray Feb. 8 by Paramount Home Entertainment with a new introduction by director Martin Scorsese, who shares his thoughts on the film and its impact on cinema.

Both a critique of the culture of stardom and a look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome’s rich, La Dolce Vita follows a notorious celebrity journalist over one crazy week. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée and Yvonne Furneaux.

The film was restored in 2011 by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in association with The Film Foundation, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Mediaset-Medusa, Paramount Pictures and Cinecittà Luce.

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Pluto TV Set to Launch in Italy on Oct. 28

ViacomCBS has two goals: Expand market penetration and consumer awareness of the Paramount+ subscription streaming service, as well as ad-supported free streaming television platform Pluto TV.

The media giant Oct. 28 rolls out Pluto TV in Italy featuring 40 original channels, including movie channels Pluto TV Romantic Films, Pluto TV Cinema Italiano and Pluto TV Film Action; entertainment-focused Pluto TV Crime and Young and Fabulous; series-led channels like Pluto TV Series, The McLeod Sisters and Teen Series; comedy channels such as Scherzi e Risati, Pluto TV Film Comedy and FailArmy; kids and family collections like Super! Heroes and Super! SpongeBob; and thematic channels like 16 & Pregnant.

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The media giant earlier this year partnered with Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky on multiple projects, including Pluto TV. Sky Media will serve as Pluto’s Italian advertising sales partner.

The debut will mark Italy’s first operating FAST service, which precludes the 2022 debut of Paramount+ in the European country. Pluto currently has more than 50 million active monthly users across 25 countries.

“We’ve been able to align our priorities, which are to roll-out Paramount+ and Pluto TV all over the world to secure our leading position in the AVOD and SVOD landscape,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, said on a webcast.

The executive believes that the opportunity in streaming is “massive” and absolutely fundamental for ViacomCBS. Annecchino contends it is a priority to secure a winning streaming strategy worldwide over the next year. Ongoing launches of Paramount+ and Pluto TV afford ViacomCBS greater opportunities to distribute content with the potential to become global IP.

“The combination of all these assets will make ViacomCBS a unique offer internationally,” Annecchino said. “Content is becoming more and more global. We are basically creating an organization that will deliver more and more real benefits from the U.S. to the world.”

 

Pluto TV Launching Italian Service Oct. 28

ViacomCBS’s expansion of digital assets worldwide continues. The media giant has partnered with Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky on multiple projects, including the planned Oct. 28 debut of FAST platform Pluto TV. Sky Media will serve as Pluto’s Italian advertising sales partner.

The debut will mark Italy’s first operating FAST service, which precludes the 2022 debut of Paramount+ in the European country. Pluto TV currently has more than 50 million active monthly users across 25 countries.

“ViacomCBS is rapidly expanding its global streaming footprint, connecting consumers with a vast library of great content across free and pay platforms worldwide,” Olivier Jollet, SVP and GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement.

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Channels available at launch include Pluto TV Azione, Pluto TV Cinema Italiano, Pluto TV Drama and Pluto TV Real Life, in addition to content from myriad third parties including Lionsgate, Minerva, KidsMe, Banijay Rights and Cineflix Rights, among others.

“This further strengthens Sky Media’s portfolio in terms of digital platforms, audience and content,” said Evelyn Rothblum, EVP of advertising, partnerships and distribution at Sky Italy and Sky Deutschland.

FuboTV Acquires Italian Soccer Streaming Rights for Canada

Online TV sports streaming service FuboTV Aug. 19 announced it has acquired the exclusive streaming rights for Coppa Italia and Serie A professional soccer distributed in Canada.

ViacomCBS’s streaming platform Paramount+ holds the U.S. streaming rights to Serie A and Coppa Italia.

Fubo’s Coppa Italia agreement includes a minimum of 41 live matches per season from the annual Italian cup competition, plus the Supercoppa Italiana. All matches will stream exclusively in Canada on FuboTV. FuboTV’s coverage is in partnership with sports marketing agency S&T Sports Group.

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The online TV platform will also be the exclusive English language Canadian home of Italy’s Serie A soccer league. The agreement was brokered by Infront, the international media rights partner of Lega Serie A in Canada. Serie A consists of 380 matches annually with FuboTV’s coverage beginning Aug. 21.

“With Canadians cutting the cord at an increasing pace comparable to the U.S. market, according to a report by Boon Dog Professional Services, we see a tremendous growth opportunity,” David Gandler,  co-founder and CEO of New York-based FuboTV, said in a statement.

The agreements mark the latest moves by FuboTV to differentiate its sports-first programming with exclusive soccer rights. Earlier this year, FuboTV acquired the exclusive streaming rights to the Qatar World Cup 2022 Qualifying matches of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in the United States. The platform also has exclusive Canadian streaming rights for the Liga MX home matches of Club Deportivo Guadalajara S.A. de C.V. (Chivas), in addition to streaming international soccer leagues like French Ligue 1 locally through its content partners.

Luca

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney;
Animated;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence.
Voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Marco Barricelli, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sacha Baron Cohen.

With Luca, Pixar delivers a wonderfully realized rumination about growing up, exploring the joys of the world and finding friends who also might be just a little bit different.

The film follows the tradition of earlier Disney tales such as Splash and The Little Mermaid, but with a distinctly Italian flair. Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a young sea monster who yearns to learn about the wider world, but is limited to a life shepherding goatfish under the sea. One day, while looking through a number of human objects that fell from a boat, he encounters Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), an orphaned sea monster who teaches Luca that when they go onto land and dry out, their bodies become human.

They have fun with their misadventures on the lonely island where Alberto lives, dreaming of one day obtaining a Vespa so they can travel the world. But when Luca’s parents take notice of his time on land, they threaten to send him to live with his uncle in the ocean deep. So, Alberto convinces Luca to run away to the sleepy Italian fishing village nearby to hide out. There, they meet Giulia (Emma Berman), who recruits them to form a team for an upcoming race, hoping to defeat the bully Ercole.

But they also learn there is a bounty for killing sea monsters, which they are revealed to be whenever they get wet. In addition, Luca’s parents come ashore themselves to search him out, leading to a funny bit in which they assume every boy they encounter could be Luca because they don’t know what he looks like as a human.

Director Enrico Casarosa based much of the film on his boyhood in Genoa, Italy, using the concept of the sea monster as a metaphor for not quite fitting in.

The film is beautifully animated in typical Pixar fashion, and so evocative of its oceanside environment that viewers can virtually feel the sun on their face and the water at their feet.

The Blu-ray includes a compilations of storyboards for about 30 minutes of deleted sequences, included a couple of alternate openings. There are also three making-of featurettes running about 35 minutes total.

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Paramount+ Acquires Exclusive U.S. Rights to Italian Soccer; Streaming More Than 400 Matches Each Season

CBS Sports and Lega Serie A March 25 announced details of a multi-platform agreement for exclusive U.S. rights to the Serie A Championship, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana professional soccer events.

Paramount+ has made soccer a focal point of its platform, streaming more than a thousand live matches each year across an extensive portfolio of soccer properties, including UEFA club competitions, NWSL, Concacaf Men’s World Cup Qualifiers, Liga Profesional de Fútbol, and Serie A.

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The former CBS All Access SVOD service will stream more than 400 club matches live each season through 2024, featuring all 380 Serie A matches, at least 25 Coppa Italia matches, including all contests from the fourth knockout round on, and the Supercoppa Italiana match each year between the winners of Serie A and Coppa Italia. Select matches will be televised each year on CBS Sports linear platforms, including CBS Sports Network.

“We are building critical mass in soccer, and the addition of Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana is another major step in the expansion of CBS Sports’ extensive lineup of live soccer coverage on Paramount+ and across our linear and digital platforms,” Jeffrey Gerttula, EVP and GM of CBS Sports Digital, said in a statement.

Lega Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo said the deal provides the league a foothold in a strategic foreign market, underscoring the growth of the international image of the Serie A brand.

“Today it is not a point of arrival, but rather the beginning of a process of investments in human resources and editorial contents to support the continued growth of Serie A in the North America territory,” De Siervo said. “This is the result of the work of the last 18 months and of the increasing number of American owners who have decided to invest in our teams.”

CBS Sports begins coverage in August with the start of the 2021-22 Serie A season. Additional coverage details will be announced in the coming months in conjunction with the 2021-22 Serie A and Coppa Italia schedules.

CBS Sports Digital will deliver additional coverage and original programming and feature highlights across social channels and CBS Sports HQ, the 24/7 streaming sports news network.

 

Amazon Prime Video Eyeing Italian Serie A Soccer Rights

In a major move, Amazon Prime Video reportedly is set to bid on exclusive TV rights to Italy’s Serie A professional soccer league. The deal for three years could cost the SVOD platform upwards of $1.4 billion, and would put into competition against Comcast’s Sky, which is the current rights holder, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

The league has set a Jan. 26 deadline for carriage rights.

Amazon, unlike other SVOD services, has not shied away from live sports, with Prime Video currently streaming NFL Thursday Night Football in the U.S., in addition to the English Premier League and select rugby matches overseas. This deal would be different as Amazon would have exclusive broadcast and streaming rights.

When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox’s assets, it included India’s Hotstar, which has streaming rights to cricket — a national sport in the world’s second-most-populous country. Disney has now rebranded SVOD to Disney+Hotstar, and in the process “acquired” 30% of Disney Plus’ 88.6 million subscriber base.

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WWE Partners with Discovery to Stream Pro Wrestling in Italy

WWE and Discovery June 24 announced a new multiyear agreement in Italy beginning July 1 that will make WWE’s weekly flagship programming available exclusively live and on-demand with original U.S. commentary on DPlay Plus, Discovery’s SVOD platform, along with versions featuring Italian commentary on DMAX (Channel 52).

Every week, Dplay Plus will air “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” live. NXT will be available on-demand via Dplay Plus every Thursday morning.

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WWE fans can also watch with Italian commentary by Luca Franchini and Michele Posa on Discovery’s free-to-air channel, DMAX. A two-hour version of Raw will premiere on Mondays starting July 13; SmackDown will air on Tuesdays and re-run on Sundays; NXT will air on Saturdays and re-run on Sundays.

“We are thrilled to embark on a new chapter for WWE in Italy as we bring our unique blend of action-packed, family-friendly sports entertainment to Discovery’s free-to-air and premium channels,” Stefan Kastenmüller, SVP, GM, WWE, said in a statement. “We are excited that our relationship with Discovery is enhancing the fan experience in Italy with both primetime and family-friendly timeslots.”

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Alessandro Araimo, managing director of Discovery Italy, said WWE has “conquered a very wide audience” and “we are confident that our channels and platforms can help to further expand the very large Italian fanbase.”

Raw, SmackDown and NXT with Italian commentary will also be available on-demand via Dplay. WWE’s two weekly recap series, “Bottom Line” and “Afterburn,” will be available with original commentary from Dplay Plus.

The agreement with WWE will make the Dplay Plus premium content offer even more exclusive with the platform subscription price unchanged at 3.99 euros ($4.50) per month.

WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania and SummerSlam, will stream exclusively on WWE Network in Italy.