Tom Fontana skein also a hit in Italy

Tom Fontana’s edgy costume drama “Borgia” beat all-time record ratings on Gaul’s Canal Plus when the first two episodes bowed in primetime on Monday.

Passing records set by “Desperate Housewives” and Olivier Marchal’s “Braquo,” “Borgia’s” launch lured more than 1.6 million viewers, 26.7% of the paybox’s subscribers, per a Canal Plus’ rep.

The 12-part series, which has completed its run in Italy, also attracted hit ratings on Sky Italia’s Sky Cinema, making it the pay channel’s best-running TV drama of the year.

Benefiting from word-of-mouth, the $30 million show built viewership during its run. While 229,000 viewers tuned in for the pilot, 420,000 watched the final episode, nearly 10% of Sky Cinema subscribers.

Repped by Jan Mojto’s Munich-based Beta Film, “Borgia” has sold in nearly 40 countries and Netflix recently acquired U.S. and Canadian rights.

The Renaissance-set show centers on the infamous clan and its cunning, yet charismatic patriarch, Rodrigo Borgia, as he rises to power in the Vatican and becomes Pope Alexander VI.

“Borgia” toplines “The Wire’s” John Doman, Assumpta Serna, Art Malik and Udo Kier.

Fully financed in Europe, the drama was commissioned by Canal Plus and produced by Gaul’s Atlantique Prods., Mojto’s Eos Entertainment and Prague’s Etic. Show will roll out on Austrian pubcaster ORF on Wednesday and on German pubcaster ZDF on Monday.

Showtime’s “The Borgias,” developed at the same time as Fontana’s show, is helmed by Neil Jordan and stars Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia. It bowed in April and has been renewed for a second season.

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