Sky's Italian unit signs internet TV deal with Open Fiber

Sky parabolic antennas are seen on roof of the Sky Italia buildings on the outskirts of Milan, Italy, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini

ROME (Reuters) - Sky's Italian unit has signed a long-term deal with broadband company Open Fiber that will allow it to offer internet TV in Italy, the two companies said on Thursday.

The opportunity to stream programs through Open Fiber's network, alongside Sky's existing satellite offer, will begin in summer 2019, the joint statement said.

The announcement confirms a Reuters story on Tuesday that the pair were close to signing a deal.

The move comes as more traditional broadcasters review business models to offer customers more services to fend off increased competition from online content providers like Netflix.

"Sky's mission is to be at the center of both innovation in the TV industry and the digitalization process of Italy. This agreement with Open Fiber is an important next step," Sky Italia Chief Executive Andrea Zappia said in the statement.

Open Fiber, jointly controlled by Italy's state-controlled utility Enel and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, is rolling out a fast fiber optic network to take on phone incumbent Telecom Italia.

Zappia said he believed pay-TV had "significant room for growth and fiber represents an innovative and simple way to deliver more quality TV and on-demand content into the heart of Italian homes".

The accord will give Sky Italia access to the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) ultrafast broadband network Open Fiber is laying in more than 270 Italian towns and cities by 2022.

Sky boasts 23 million customers in seven countries, including the UK, Italy and Germany.

(Reporting by Alberto Sisto and Stephen Jewkes, writing by Maria Pia Quaglia and Giulia Segreti, editing by Paola Arosio and Elaine Hardcastle)