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Sky Italia Creates Two-Tiered Development Model

Top Italian paybox's dual-content pipeline features one for shows that travel and the other for locals only

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox is fixing up its Italo-scripted biz with a dual-content pipeline — one for series like the $22 million mob-themed “Gomorrah,” which is geared to a global audience; the other for spunky local romantic comedies like “Amore Oggi” (Love Today), shot by two YouTube-bred helmers for $500,000.

“Gomorrah,” based on the same bestselling book as Matteo Garrone’s like-named film, has been sold by Beta Film to more than 30 countries, including the U.S., where a deal is being finalized to make it the first Italo skein ever beamed into U.S. homes by an Italian channel.

“Amore,” on the other hand, was shot in Brazil, Paris and Italy using a digital SLR camera.

“Gomorrah” will air on Sky Italia’s new Sky Atlantic channel, dedicated to premium-quality series from around the world. The channel launches April 9 with Netflix original “House of Cards.”

“The challenge with ‘Gomorrah’ was to prove that we had the capabilities and the creative talent to do something for the international market,” says Andrea Scrosati, programming topper for Sky Italia, which with 4.8 million subscribers is Italy’s top pay TV service. “But obviously the issue there is that even though we are recouping a lot through our international rights, it’s still a pretty big investment.”

Sky Italia’s 2013 own investment in scripted original productions was around $19 million (Sky Italia doesn’t reveal current financials). The total budget these productions generated was about twice that amount, thanks to partners like Beta and Italo terrestrial broadcaster La7.

Still, there are more big-budget projects in the works. In February, the company teamed up with Sky Deutschland and Blighty’s BSkyB to co-produce “Diabolik,” an adaptation of a popular Italian comicbook about a master thief who takes on different identities and steals from other criminals. It marks the first joint project for 21st Century Fox’s Euro payboxes, and is clearly intended for global distribution, although Sky Italia was mum on the budget.

Scrosati is more than willing to discuss the reasons the company is pursuing its diametrically different production approaches. “One is to create top-level international product,” he says, “and the other is to try and experiment with incredibly low-budget product that won’t travel, but can reap results at home.”

“Amore” has certainly done the latter. Airing on Sky Italia’s Cinema 1 on Valentine’s Day, it averaged 395,000 viewers, similar to the latest “Twilight” installment on the same channel. And thanks to its smallscreen success, “Amore Oggi” will be getting a theatrical release in Italy via Fox some time before summer, marking the exceedingly rare instance in Italy of a movie produced for and aired on television being distributed in movie houses.

Scrosati says the company has fast-track plans for two more low-budget movies and a possible TV series.

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