Religious dramas more popular than reality TV in Italy
Reality TV shows and Hollywood blockbusters may scoop top viewing in most countries but in Italy religious films are attracting almost as many viewers to the small screen as soccer.
A made-for-TV film on the life of Saint Maria Goretti, a young girl who chose to die as a martyr rather than submit to sexual abuse, attracted some 10 million viewers last weekend -- 35% of households, Italian media reported.
TV programs that are hits in most countries, like fly-on-the-wall reality show Big Brother, attract big audiences in Italy, but not as many viewers as religious films.
The figures are something of a surprise to sociologists since surveys show church attendance among Italians has fallen steadily in recent years, even though 98% of the population is still described as Catholic.
Aware that they are on to an advertising bonanza, TV stations are already planning films on the life of Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa.
The most-watched religious TV film of all - seen by more than 50% of the population in April last year - starred Ed Asner as Pope John XXIII, known as the "good pope".
Maria Goretti: the saints are back on TV (Tamtamcinema, the daily of Italian Cinema)
Baldassarre punta sui santi "Raccontano la storia d'Italia" (La Repubblica)
27 Feb 2003