Tom Fontana’s ‘Borgia’ a Ratings Hit in France, Italy

Nicolai Pennestri/Atlantique/EOS

First episode of papal drama starring John Doman draws a record 1.7 million viewers on Canal +.

COLOGNE, Germany – Tom Fontana’s papal period drama Borgia has converted unbelievers in Italy and killed them in France. The series, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) and starring John Dorman (The Wire), debuted to an audience of 1.7 million on Canal +, a record for the French pay TV network. On Sky Italia, where Borgia debuted with a two-episode teaser this summer, the series nearly doubled its audience over its 12-episode run. 420,000 watched the series finale last Friday. Netflix has picked up North American rights to Borgiaand will bow the show via its online service later this month.

Showtime’s The Borgias, which covers much of the same sordid ground (incest, papal deception, etc.), grabbed 1.06 million viewers on its U.S. debut in April. Showtime’s series is directed by Neil Jordan and stars Jeremy Irons.

The real test for Fontana’s Borgia, however, will come with its bow next Monday in primetime on German free-TV network ZDF. While Netflix has committed to a second series of the show, Borgia’s fate depends on a greenlight from its European broadcast partners.

Borgia is a co-production between France’s Atlantique Productions and Germany’s EOS Entertainment in cooperation with Canal +, ZDF and Austrian network ORF. EOS sister company Beta Film is handling international sales and has closed deals for the series with some 40 countries worldwide.