Venice: FremantleMedia Sells 'The Young Pope' Globally (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Gianni Fiorito/Fremantle Media
Jude Law in 'The Young Pope'

The new series from HBO, Sky and Canal Plus has been sold worldwide before its Venice premiere, with the first season possibly being one of many to come.

Paolo Sorrentino has exciting news as his first TV show launches Saturday at the Venice Film Festival.

Ahead of its global premiere in Venice, FremantleMedia has announced a slew of new deals for the series including: MNET (Pan-Africa), HBO (Pan-CEE), BETV (Belgium), OTE TV (Greece), 365 (Iceland), Sky (New Zealand), Hot (Israel), TV4 (Sweden), Videoland (Netherlands) and FOX (Netherlands).

The Oscar-winning director’s new 10-part show The Young Pope stars Jude Law as the conservative, politically strategic, first-ever American leader of the Catholic Church. Diane Keaton stars as Sister Mary and James Cromwell plays Cardinal Michael Spencer.

FremantleMedia previously announced pan-Scandinavian sales and is currently in talks to close deals across Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Latin America. The Young Pope is a joint production of HBO, Sky and Canal Plus, meaning partner territory rights are covered for the U.S., Italy, the U.K., Germany, Ireland, Austria and France.

The series will premiere in Europe in October on Sky and Canal Plus, but HBO has not yet set a premiere date for the U.S. Italian company Wildside, in which Fremantle has a majority stake, produced the series.

“It’s a huge pleasure working on a show like this," FremantleMedia International CEO Jens Richter tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The Young Pope is an absolutely unique show, so the demand for the show is huge from all kinds of players.

“There hasn’t been something told like this before,” he continues. “The way the story is set up, this could potentially become a classic, an evergreen,” referring to Sorrentino’s unique producing- and directing-style on the project.

Richter also believes the wide appeal for the show comes from the topic. “It’s about belief," he says. "The feedback we’re getting is that the show is truly global.”

While it is not clear if Sorrentino will be jumping straight away into a second season, Richter insists that “it is set up in a way that it could be multiple series. And that is also a big draw for our partners. It’s serialized storytelling.”

Sorrentino has enjoyed the challenge of crossing over from directing film to TV. “Telling stories is fun, and finding a way to do it is fun, too,” he tells THR. “A TV series, for its length, allows you to tell one or more multifaceted longer stories than cinema. But there is a risk: In a movie you look for a synthesis that often gives birth to great results. TV invites you to forget the synthesis, but you have to constantly remind yourself to find one so that the result is not distracting.”

The Young Pope is just part of FremantleMedia’s larger strategy in strengthening its drama offerings. Its current pipeline also includes American Gods, which will launch on Starz in North America and Amazon in the rest of the world, and Hard Sun, produced by Euston Film for BBC One in the U.K. In recent years, the company has not only acquired Wildside in Italy but also Miso Film in Scandinavia and Kwai and Fontaram in France.

“The whole drama side of our business is expanding,” says Richter. “We want to have a lot more Young Popes coming.”