If you asked me back in January 2023 what my most anticipated show of the year was, the answer was easy: Babylon Berlin season 4. There were several reasons it was at the top of my list, from the way the show built a glorious and grounded mystery in its previous seasons to the way it traced the crumbling Weimar Republic. Annoyingly, it was also my most anticipated show of 2022, and 2021 before that.
Yet here we are staring down another year, another preview, another list of most exciting TV shows to come and where is season 4? Much like Rihanna’s next album, we are constantly surfing the high of wondering, anticipating a drop at any moment. Unlike the long-awaited ninth album from Robyn Fenty, Babylon Berlin is, perplexingly… already out? It’s just not out here.
[Ed. note: We’re writing from the U.S., so our use of “here” means “the U.S., where we ache with anticipation and self-absorption.” If you’re somewhere this isn’t true, we are, sincerely, so jealous.]
In a day and age when so much is so accessible, the fact that Babylon Berlin season 4 has been released — in full — in Germany but not in the U.S. seems tantalizing and perplexing. The mystery is one that is worthy of the inquisitiveness of Gereon (Volker Bruch) and Charlotte (Liv Lisa Fries). Like their adventures in the late 1920s Weimar Republic, there seemed to be an obvious injustice thanks to some bureaucratic nonsense that could be righted.
But the answer — frankly like much of the corruption Gereon and Charlotte uncover in Babylon Berlin — is far more mundane. And unfortunately, for those of us who are hopeful for Babylon Berlin to suddenly get that “New Episode” tile on Netflix, the situation is just as precarious.
So did Netflix cancel Babylon Berlin or something?
No! That’s part of the thing! Not only has Babylon Berlin season 4 aired — again, with all the American entitlement I can muster: In! Full! — it’s already been greenlit for season 5.
Alright then, what is the holdup?
Tale as old as time, or at least as long as time has been streaming: Corporate rights.
Babylon Berlin is a co-production between ARD Degeto (a German free TV network) and Sky Deutschland, a Comcast subsidiary and satellite TV provider. The licensing agreement allows Sky to air the show first, as it did in fall 2022, then ARD gets the rights later before it lives on both channels’ platforms. This is of course just how rights work in Germany; in the dozens of other territories the rights go through different networks, like in the U.S. where it goes through Netflix.
But this year there was a plot twist: Sky announced it was shuttering its German scripted originals arm. While seasons that were already in production would be allowed to finish (like Das Boot season 4 or Helgoland 513), there would be no newly commissioned shows.
Thankfully, Babylon Berlin escaped the reaper’s scythe here, with ARD and producing partners X Filme and Beta Film committing to a fifth season. In their statement, they specifically called out the show’s international success, having aired in 140 territories in addition to millions of views on ARD. They didn’t specify how the Sky portion of the budget would be covered, but sources told Deadline Sky wasn’t the “main partner” on the production anyway. Either way, new Babylon Berlin is the objective here.
So when is the Babylon Berlin season 4 release date in the U.S.?
The answer is complicated. As best as we can tell, Babylon Berlin won’t come to the U.S. until after it airs on ARD. As of May of this year, it was coming to the channel on Oct. 1, which should hopefully mean the Netflix rights will be secured sometime after that.
Whether that will be right away or later in the fall, or even the winter, or even (ugh) 2024, no one’s sure yet. Netflix didn’t respond to Polygon’s request for comment on whether there was a date in the works. Whenever it does, it will likely drop the way Babylon Berlin has plopped on Netflix in the past, which is to say in full and without ceremony.
Either way: Here’s to the most anticipated show of the year — whatever year that happens to be.