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Babylon Berlin” has launched strongly on free-TV in its domestic German market, where it has become the most popular scripted series on free-TV this year.

The landmark €40 million ($46.5 million) show launched on pubcaster ARD on Sunday, having already bowed on pay-TV platform Sky. Its audience peaked at 8.5 million on ARD and averaged 7.8 million viewers, making it the top drama series on free-to-air TV overall in Germany in 2018, and in the 14-to-49 demographic. It garnered a 24.5% market share.

Viewers were drawn to inspector Gereon Rath’s exploits in decadent pre-war Berlin. ARD ran the first three episodes Sunday and will play a further three Thursday. The remaining two episodes of Season 1 will then play in a regular Thursday slot.

The free-TV numbers follow the series’ strong showing on pay-TV. On Sky, it was the best-performing non-English-language series ever, and was only beaten in overall numbers by the latest season of “Game of Thrones.” The series opener won 1.2 million viewers on Sky, which operates in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.

From scriptwriter-director trio Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries and Henk Handloegten, the series is produced by by X Filme Creative Pool, ARD Degeto, Sky and Beta Film. Beta handles distribution and has sold the series to buyers including HBO Europe, Canal+ in France, and Netflix, which has it for the U.S.

ARD and Sky initially greenlit two seasons of the lavish show, the most expensive non-English-language drama to date. The two seasons were shot concurrently. A third run will enter production this year.