Italy Is Piloting Its Own ‘Netflix for Culture’ for Art Shows and Performances, in Hopes of Helping Struggling Institutions Stay Afloat

The streaming platform ITsART will bring audiences back into Italy's opera houses and museums in spite restrictions on travel.

A scene from Madina, Teatro alla Scala. Courtesy of ITsART.
A scene from Madina, Teatro alla Scala. Courtesy of ITsART.

A new platform dubbed the “Netflix for Italian culture” launched in Europe this week, streaming content ranging from live operas and documentaries to virtual tours and museum exhibitions. The initiative aims to promote Italian culture worldwide while exploring new revenue streams for cultural institutions that have been struggling amid the pandemic.

Backed by the Italian ministry of culture, the online platform ITsART was inaugurated on November 23 and is now available in 26 countries in Europe initially before it rolls out a global expansion next year to the United States and China.

The platform’s library boasts more than 1,275 titles divided into three sections: “stage” for performance arts shows, “sites” for virtual tours to historic locations and museums, and a section called “stories” where one can watch movies and documentaries.

Much of its content is drawn from its partnership with more than 100 cultural institutions in Italy. There’s no lack of prominent contributors, including the Uffizi Galleries, Galleria Borghese, and alleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Roma, as well as the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation and Fondazione Prada. Audiences will also be able to watch performances from the likes of Teatro alla Scala and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. The platform has also inked a deal with Cinecittà, the iconic Italian film studio, as well as a range of film companies and film festivals.

“Our aim was to provide a common platform that can reach a growing audience of consumers of Italian art and culture around the world, whilst importantly, supporting the performing and visual arts sector,” Guido Casali, CEO of ITsART, told the meida. A controlling 51 percent stake of the organization is belongs to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the Italian government’s investment bank. The remaining stake is owned by its Milan-headquartered technology partner Chili.

Free registration is required but some of the titles are available for free with ads. Others are available on a pay-per-view basis, with prices ranging €2.90 ($3.25) for a film to €9.90 ($11) for a live opera.

Like most places around the world, the country famous for great food, culture, and scenery was hit hard by the pandemic, losing €121 billion ($161 billion) in 2020 due to travel restrictions. Cultural institutions lost millions of visitors due to lockdown.

Although tourism in Italy bounced back this summer as infection rates waned, the industry has yet to return to pre-Covid era levels. There is also fear of uncertainties over another round of lockdown in Europe amid a recent surge of Covid-19 cases. Institutions in Austria and the German state of Saxony were forced to close this week.

The hope is that the platform will help bring audiences back, even just virtually. To help develop new income streams for cultural institutions in Italy, ITsART operates on a profit-sharing basis with partner institutions that supply content.

The platform will expand further with more original content, and an eventual international roll-out in the U.S. and China is planned, though it is uncertain if the platform would be partnering with local institutions in these countries.

ITsART can be viewed on most digital devices and its content is available with subtitles in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.


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