×

Rule ‘Britannia’: HBO, Other International Buyers Snap Up New Sky Drama (EXCLUSIVE)

Vertigo’s first series marks a switch in focus from film to TV

Sky has secured a raft of global buyers – including HBO and Starz – for its new original series “Britannia,” a “Game of Thrones”-like drama set in Britain under Roman rule 2,000 years ago.

The show was co-produced with Amazon, which will launch it Friday in the U.S. HBO has acquired it for several of its European services, including in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, and Spain, while Starz has it for the Middle East. The iFlix streaming service bought rights for Africa, and pay-TV platform Foxtel has it for Australia. Sony has home entertainment rights across multiple territories.

In all, distributor Sky Vision has sealed deals for the show in 124 territories.

The series is set in AD 43 and follows the Roman army in Britain as it seeks to crush both local tribes led by warrior women and druids who are seeking to channel forces from the underworld. The nine-part drama is the first TV work by celebrated playwright and “Spectre” scribe Jez Butterworth, and follows the battle between the druids, Celts, and Romans for Britannia.

For Vertigo Films, which made “Britannia” with Neal Street, the series is its entry into TV. As an independent film producer, Vertigo made such features as “Bronson,” “The Football Factory,” and “Monsters.” The company is now focusing on TV after an epiphany at the AFM five years ago, principals Allan Niblo and James Richardson told Variety.

“It felt like there had been a sea change in independent film, so we made the decision back then for me to set us up in TV and Al to finish the films we were doing and move over,” Richardson said.

“A lot of broadcasters had said to us, ‘Why don’t you do TV,’ but we were too busy making films and the kind of content we were doing wasn’t right for them at that time,” Niblo added. “But obviously that has radically changed. What excites us is bold and cinematic content, and that’s what the market wants at the moment.”

Richardson credits Sky drama chief Anne Mensah with understanding his and Niblo’s vision. Vertigo’s sophomore series, Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters buddy cop drama “Bulletproof,” is currently in production for Sky. “Monsters” is currently being developed for TV at Channel 4.

“It’s important for us now to keep that sense of what Vertigo was with the films we used to do, and make sure we keep our identity as making things that are slightly off-kilter,” Richardson said. “‘Britannia’ is off kilter, fun, entertaining period drama. ‘Bulletproof’ is a fresh, original, action cop show.”

Vertigo would like to bring Butterworth and the team back for a second season of “Britannia” if it gets greenlit. The launch episode came out of the gates strongly in the U.K. Sky does not give out overnights, but the debut episode was the best for a Sky drama since “Fortitude” in 2015 with about 540,000 viewers, meaning it ranked above Sky’s launches for “Riviera” and “Tin Star.”

Pan-European satcaster Sky will also show “Britannia” in its other major territories, Germany and Italy.

More TV

  • Longtime '60 Minutes' Producer Alan Weisman

    Longtime '60 Minutes' Producer Alan Weisman Dies at 68

    Alan Weisman, a longtime producer for “60 Minutes” known for his work with Morley Safer, died Thursday at his home in New Jersey of natural causes. He was 68. Weisman produced some of Safer’s most memorable “60 Minutes” segments, including the 1984 profile of Jackie Gleason and the 1989 jailhouse interview that brought national attention [...]

  • Khloe KardashianKhloe Kardashian, Emma Grede and

    Khloe Kardashian To 'Bachelor' Creator: 'Stop Or You Will Be Hearing From My Lawyers'

    UPDATE: Khloe Kardashian slams “Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss’ claims she could be the next “Bachelorette.” And her sister Kim Kardashian West has her back. I’m not fucking clickbait right now. Stop or you will be hearing from my lawyers. How insensitive!! https://t.co/vTKi83nLUJ — Khloé (@khloekardashian) February 24, 2019 The time has come to choose a [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Whiskey Tango Cavalier

    TV Review: 'Whiskey Cavalier'

    The crux of “Whiskey Cavalier” can be found right in its protagonist’s name. “Will Chase” is a purposefully ridiculous wink of a name that tries to be both debonair and very silly all at once, just like the FBI agent (played by Scott Foley) to which it belongs. This isn’t a regular spy drama, “Whiskey [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content