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First Sky-HBO co-production 'The Young Pope' signs Diane Keaton to star with Jude Law

Law plays a fictional pontiff as the broadcasters team up to take on global rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.

Diane Keaton Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI

Diane Keaton is to join Jude Law in " The Young Pope," the first TV series co-produced by UK broadcaster Sky and US broadcaster HBO.

The international co-production marks the latest series to be produced by broadcasters from different countries and peopled with international stars to appeal to audiences around the world. This is especially important as broadcasters in individual countries face competition from global players like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, which are sinking money into new shows like "House of Cards" and "Transparent" and releasing them to a global audience, free from the territorial constraints of local broadcasting.

"The Young Pope" will be the first brand-new show to be co-produced by Sky with HBO after the long-standing deal between the two for Sky to have the exclusive rights to broadcast HBO programmes in the UK. French pay-TV channel Canal+ is also co-producing.

Since it's a co-production between the broadcasters, we can expect to see episodes of the series premiere on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time for subscribers to Sky's and HBO's pay-TV service. They're likely to also be available on the broadcasters' online streaming services HBO Now and Now TV for those who don't have subscriptions.

Jude Law Donna Ward/Getty Images

Sky's "Strikeback" was previously aired on HBO subsidiary Cinemax, but this is the first time a co-production will appear on the more prestigious HBO itself.

Sky recently produced icy drama "Fortitude" with an international cast including Sofie Gråbøl, Stanley Tucci and Michael Gambon. It's also added a host of US comic talent led by Rob Lowe to forthcoming armageddon drama "You, Me & The Apocalypse," coming this year to Sky in the UK and NBC in the US.

Oscar winner Keaton plays an American nun alongside twice-nominated Law as the fictional Pope Pius XIII. Law's participation was confirmed in May. All eight episodes of the series will be helmed by Italian director and writer Paolo Sorrentino, director of 2013's Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning film "The Great Beauty." Sorrentino has previously directed Sean Penn in "This Must Be the Place," and recently directed Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda in "Youth."

According to Sorrentino, "The Young Pope" tackles "the clear signs of God's existence. The clear signs of God's absence. How faith can be searched for and lost. The greatness of holiness, so great as to be unbearable when you are fighting temptations and when all you can do is to yield to them. The inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as Pontiff. Finally, how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one's neighbour. That is what 'The Young Pope' is about."

Production begins this week. The series will be aired on both sides of the pond in 2016.