Making a business out of the niche

Italy: Telestudio8 has been producing niche sports broadcast programmes for regional channels since 1994. Italian Correspondent, Roberto Landini, examines a business model that has done very nicely out of relatively minority sports.

Our story begins in 1994 when Fabrizio Gulmini establishes his TV production company, MAF Editore on a hunch: his goal since has been the production of specialised TV programmes devoted to sports and also the delivery and distribution of such programmes all over Italy to regional channels.

His main idea since the beginning of this adventure is to follow some sports events which national and commercial networks generally consider too small or minor. Among these are bicycle races in several variants, plus running and track and field events.

Today the general Italian landscape sees some 30 regional TV channels (Espansione TV, Video Star, Teleunica, Video Bergamo, just to mention few) and also free satellite channels. The national regional TV circuit airs two broadcasts created by MAF on a weekly basis, the whole year long. Each is 30 minutes long for a total amount of 52 hours per year.

During the years these broadcasts have evolved but their “vocation” has remained the same; the former “Sport Winner” actually is devoted to bicycle races and mountain bike racing, while the latter, based on the same format -thirty minutes per week on 52 weeks- is called “Sport Special” and is thoroughly dedicated to running and track and field events, marathons, etc.

Both are concerned with the highlights of Italian non-professional sports events directly involving tens of thousands of very fond of participants.

Figures are not particularly high if compared to national events though these niche sports are followed by a minimum of one thousand summing up to 12 – 13 thousand athletes for each race, as happens every year in the “Nove Colli” in Cesenatico, near Rimini.

Fabrizio confirms: “The TV audience has constantly increased over the years building up our reputation and widening the regional circuit of TV syndicates which rebroadcast our programmes. And after some years these TV programmes have gained such a respect to be promoted to primetime both weekly and over the weekend. From the few TV channels of the beginning which are still active today, nowadays we may count on many other channels and Italian TV listening survey Auditel confirms important datas of general increase of interest.”

Similar sports highlights but shorter – again produced by MAF Editore – have also been commissioned and aired over the years by national satellite and digital terrestrial broadcaster RAI Sport, doubling the efforts for the editor based in Besozzo, at a short distance from Varese and Milano. And alongside the typical linear broadcast of regional sports events, a couple of years ago some websites were launched with the same highlights which can be comfortably watched on demand ( , , , .

Practically everything goes on air is produced within MAF Editore headquarters and the production and post production facilities which also comprise a chromakey news shooting studio.

All cameras used in the studio and in the outside broadcasts are Sony for a mixed production, with some events in HD, 16:9, while the majority still are SD 4:3.

Six people work in the editorial and technical staff taking care of everything, shooting, editing, and some other freelancers are scattered in Piemonte, Vento, Emilia Romagna, Toscana in order to follow directly some strategic events. MAF Editore is known with “” brand and website which is also a web TV sport site.

All editing takes place on PC workstations with Adobe Premiere software. All shooting is in HD and the final MPEG-2 programme is downloadable through convenient dedicated ftp servers. For their reliability and possibility to mount side monitors, Sony tape camcorders are used through the typical 140km bicycle races or 42km for running races, and 21km for half marathons.

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