RTÉ’s Easter documentary wins international sales

Hugh Bonneville’s ‘Countdown to Calvary’ will air around the world this weekend

Hugh Bonneville on location in Israel for the RTÉ co-produced documentary ‘Countdown to Calvary’

Hugh Bonneville on location in Israel for the RTÉ co-produced documentary ‘Countdown to Calvary’


An RTÉ television documentary in which actor Hugh Bonneville explores the origins of Easter has secured a series of international sales, RTÉ Programme Sales has announced.

Countdown to Calvary, presented by the star of Downton Abbey and the Paddington films, has been acquired by PBS Distribution in the US, ABC and the History Channel in Australia, Norwegian broadcaster NRK and Danish broadcaster DR.

TVCO Italy, which holds the rights for Italian-speaking territories, has also secured a number of broadcast deals.

The Easter special, which investigates the last six days in the life of Jesus, was co-produced by RTÉ alongside US syndication giant American Public Television (APT) and European broadcaster ARTE.

The one-hour documentary, shot on 4K, will be broadcast in each of these countries over the Easter period, as well as on RTÉ One on Sunday at 8pm.


Countdown to Calvary is the first project to come from RTÉ’s co-production deal with ARTE, agreed in 2016, and its first ever co-production with APT, which retains the US public-broadcasting rights.

ARTE will also broadcast versions in French and German, with further translations to follow on its digital platform in Spanish, Polish and Italian.

Bonneville is perhaps best-known for recent roles such as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, Paddington’s Mr Brown and BBC head of values Ian Fletcher in the media spoof W1A. The actor also has a degree in theology from Cambridge University.

“Whether you are a person of faith or of none, you cannot escape the fact that the last six days of this man’s life, and his death, changed the world,” Bonneville said.