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Sanremo viewing figures improve Thursday night

Wednesday dip had caused concern

21 February, 10:57
Sanremo viewing figures improve Thursday night (ANSA) - Sanremo, February 21 - Viewing figures for Italy's popular Sanremo Song Festival improved Thursday night after a Wednesday-night slump that led to a high-profile post mortem and a lot of soul-searching.

The third night of the 64th annual event that mixes glitz, kitsch, evergreens and an occasional breath of fresh air snared 8.936 million viewers with a 34.36% share in the prime-time slot after the evening news, rising to 4.017 million and a 39.14% share as more late-night viewers tuned in.

The weighted average was 7.673 million and a 34.93% share. The second night of the fest captured 33.52% of the audience, raising concern at public broadcaster RAI which has been attacked for the expense of the event and even raising questions about its future.

The timing of this year's festival poses some difficulties as it coincides with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Champions League soccer matches also distracted attention Wedneday night - while there was only the lesser fare of the Europa League Thursday.

Host Fabio Fazio defended the show Thursday.

He said he was "proud" of it and refused to speculate on whether he would be back next year.

The Thursday night roster included a top contender for the Sanremo title this year, former X-Factor winner Noemi.

It also featured much-loved veteran TV performer and swing band leader Renzo Arbore, who set the crowd on fire, as well as chart-topper Arisa. Other performers included Renzo Rubino, Giusy Ferreri, Cristiano De Andre', Raphael Gualazzi, The Bloody Beetroots and Antonella Ruggiero.

The five-day festival pits 14 artists against each other and eight upcoming singers for the title of best new talent.

The event dates to 1951, when only two participants were involved.

Since then it has launched the careers of a number of Italy's top singers including Eros Ramazotti and Laura Pausini.

The show, broadcast on Italy's top station RAI 1, has been the target of anti-establishment comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo of the 5-Star Movement for its 18-million-euro price tag.

Grillo, whose rise to becoming the best-paid and most controversial comic in Italy was helped by Sanremo appearances, staged a demonstration in the Ligurian resort location earlier this week, calling the fest "emptiness par excellence" and a factor in Italy's "political and economic disaster".

RAI says the show will rake in 20.2 million euros in advertising, plus 600,000 euros in ticket sales by the time it climaxes Saturday night.

RAI 1 Director Giancarlo Leone had hoped the show would draw ratings of "somewhere between the 35.4% low of 2004 and the 2013 peak of 47.3%".

The show has also been marred by other controversies such as complaints against the openly gay singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, whose repertoire includes Gay Messiah, a song he made clear he had no intention of playing in Italy.

A Catholic youth organisation popularly known as the 'Papaboys' criticized his scheduled performance amid calls for the management of state broadcaster RAI to "intervene or resign" against what the group called "blasphemy".