Fox Broadcasting James Murdoch

ROME – James Murdoch and Sky Italia managing director Andrea Zappia on Monday met Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi in Rome and pledged a Euros 40 million ($54 million) investment in two high-profile Italian TV series, “Diabolik” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope,” as the Italo paybox steps up its production spend in Italian scripted TV after the success of its “Gomorra” skein.

James Murdoch, who is president of Sky Italia, said in a statement that the Italian TV industry still has “huge unexpressed potential” and enthused that a recent legislative bill extending Italy’s tax credits from film to also include TV production could breath new life into the country’s struggling scripted TV sector.

Both “Diabolik,” a ten-episode adaptation of a popular Italian comic book about a master thief who takes on different identities and steals from other criminals, now being prepped by Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti at Cinecittà Studios, and Sorrentino’s skein about an imaginary pontiff who is the first Italian-American Pope in history, also to be shot at Cinecittà, will tap into the generous tax incentives which give local producers a 20% tax break, outside investors a 40% tax shelter, and foreign productions a 25% tax credit.

As previously announced, Sorrentino’s skein will be produced for Sky by Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani’s Wildside.

U.S. producer John Lyons, the former president of production at Focus Features, is executive-producing the eight episode series now being scripted by Sorrentino in collaboration with his “The Great Beauty” writing partner Umberto Contarello and veteran Italo film and TV scribe Stefano Rulli.

A director is still being decided for “Diabolik,” which will be produced by Cattleya and marks the first joint project for the three European pay-TV platforms owned by 21st Century Fox: Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland, and BSkyB of the U.K.

Cattleya also produced “Crime Novel” for Sky Italia, and, more recently, “Gomorra,” the gritty series about the Neapolitan mob, which recently sold to 62 territories, including TWC for the U.S., and is scoring boffo ratings in Italy, prompting a second-series to be ordered by Sky earlier this month.

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