Why Outlander will help Starz win the battle of Sunday night TV

Written By: Janet Reynolds



Starz CEO Chris Albrecht made a startling announcement this week: He's moving the cable channel's original programming from Saturday to Sunday nights, starting in July with Power. That means that season 3 of Outlander — yes, yes it's going to happen! — would go up against the likes of Game of Thrones on HBO and Homeland on Showtime. In other words, Starz is taking on the cable big boys. Move over Jon Snow. Jamie Fraser is coming to town.

In the announcement in the Hollywood Reporter, Albrecht explains the choice this way: "We see an opportunity. Saturdays have worked so well that we feel our shows are going to be able to stand up on the most watched night of the week." Airing on Sunday nights, Albrecht says, will also make shows like Outlander be part of the Monday water cooler conversations (do people still talk around water coolers at offices????) and the resulting social media push.

But the real driver behind this move is likely this factoid noted in the Hollywood Reporter: 53 percent of the 2015 Emmy nominations were for Sunday night shows. And Starz needs to get some of those Emmys to take its channel to the next level.

"Sundays are a prestige night and we feel our shows are definitely going to be very competitive, not just in viewership but in attention-getting business on Sundays," Albrecht says. Saturdays will be for original movies. He also hinted that Starz may play with dropping all episodes at once for certain shows.

The announcement has some Outlander fans already in a tizzy (which admittedly does not take much.) "I can't stay up that late on Sunday nights to rewatch episodes!" some have cried. Canadians, meanwhile, who currently wait until Sundays to see the show (legally), have quietly said, "Welcome to our world." If Starz follows its current plan, however, — making the episode available at 12:01 A.M. — Obessenachs can still get in a couple of rewatches before they have to clock in on Monday mornings.

It is that kind of unique obsessive fan behavior, though, that will help Starz get where it wants to be from its Sunday night maneuver. Sure, they'll moan a bit, but it won't be long before Outlander fans see why this move is good for Starz in general and Outlander in particular. In order for Outlander to get the awards it deserves — for acting, costumes, set design, music, cinematography — it has to play in the same ring as the big leagues. Yes, the show has gotten a smattering of award nominations — an Emmy nomination for composer Bear McCreary and Golden Globe nominations for Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies, for instance — and even a couple of wins — Sam Heughan got a Gold Derby Award and the Critics Choice Television Awards named the show most bingeworthy in 2016 and most exciting new series in 2014. But in the meantime Game of Thrones won 12 Emmys in 2015 alone. This from a show whose main storyline seems to be seeing how many people can be killed in any given episode.

Starz certainly has a bunch of worthy TV shows besides Outlander. But what these shows don't have are the same kinds of fans. Yes, there are undoubtedly days when any one of the actors or creators of Outlander wished that Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook had not been invented. Outlander fans weigh in loud and strong on every piece of minutiae minutes after the final credits have rolled. Book purists bemoan every single change from the Word of Gabaldon, while shippers break down the private lives of the two main actors, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, frame by frame looking for signs that they are a CIRL (that would be couple in real life). It is not all pretty.

But wow Outlander fans can rally when called upon. They wear their fingers to the bone voting for various online popularity contests — Outlander won the Radio Times inaugural League of Fandoms beating out Sherlock, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and Harry Potter for God's sake. They also have raised thousands and thousands of dollars for charities sponsored by Heughan and Balfe.

And that is Starz's secret weapon: Obsessenachs will follow Outlander wherever it goes. It could air at 2 a.m. on a Monday night and the fans would be there, helping to put Starz on the TV map where it belongs. Winter may be coming, but for Outlander and Starz, the good weather is here to stay.

What do you think of the move to Sunday nights? Do you think it will help or hinder Outlander's popularity and opportunity for awards? Do you think it will hurt ratings? Will it affect your viewing habits?

51 comments

  1. Janet, I agree. But there wil be some Sunday night battles chez Potter, and someone's going to get relegated to the bedroom ( most likely me!)

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    1. I feel you Teddie. We have one TV.....I may be relegated to my first viewing on my iPad....

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  2. I think it's a good thing! I'll watch it no matter what! I ❤️ OUTLANDER!

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    1. Yes I think it shows Starz is growing up and being taken more seriously so that's good for all things Outlander too

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  3. The Outlander fandom has to be growing! And getting more viewers for Starz to be confident enough to move to Sundays!! Being in Canada .. I think it's a good thing.. as I tended to try and stay off social media to avoid spoilers.. now I don't think I will have to.

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    1. Yes, Michelle, the rest of the world will now join Canada....probably a metaphor for what should happen anyways (says this American who can't believe what she sees going on in our presidential election :) )

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  4. Let Outlander take on the Big boys, more attention means more recognition & more Awards! I don't care about the move, I'd follow OL where ever, whenever it's shown. Ratings will follow the show, no question! ♡♡

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    1. I agree KiraLilli. And I think Starz is counting on the Outlander fans to help them make this move successful! Tulach ard!

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  5. Let Outlander take on the Big boys, more attention means more recognition & more Awards! I don't care about the move, I'd follow OL where ever, whenever it's shown. Ratings will follow the show, no question! ♡♡

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  6. Yeah…SEASON 3!! BTW Starz also has another of my favorites — Black Sails. Will that go to Sunday, too? Actually, since 2014 I rarely watch the other channels, that’s what Hulu and Netflix are for.

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    1. The article said Black Sails would move too. I haven't checked that show out. Do you recommend?

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  7. That means some of us (Canada) can use the internet on weekends and avoid spoilers! Was ShowcaseCA ahead of STARZ in their consumer research? Great article Janet.

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    1. Holly Certainly seems as if ShowcaseCA knew what it was doing in terms of its viewing choice for Outlander and likely other of its shows. Maybe Starz noticed all the Outlander Canadian fans and that factored in?

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  8. I really don't know,as I live in OZ we get OL fr.Soho on Sundays anyway & GOT on Monday,love both of them equally having read both I feel the adaptation for TV is doing them justice in a more realistic way of the world.Never seen BS,but would like to,if it brings more fans why not?!Must admit I'm much more partial to OL then all others!

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    1. I think the idea that Sunday could bring Outlander even more fans. We want all 8 books adapted to TV!!!

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  10. I get it, and want what's going to ensure the continued success of Outlander. I'll just have to drag myself to work on Monday mornings.

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    1. Anne I already drag myself to work Monday mornings so maybe this will just mean I have more of a smile on my face :)

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  11. I'm fine with the move. I'll just watch GOT and Homeland on the app the next day. I already split my time with these shows, so it won't make a bit of difference to me. I'm thrilled that STARZ is making this bold move. It means they are truly invested in Outlander. That is very encouraging.

    Very nice article; you covered all the bases and provided pertinent information not found elsewhere. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks for your kind word Kelly. I too am very excited about what this means for Starz and therefore Outlander---Starz has to make a bold move or they'll fall further behind. With all the new content being created by streaming only groups like Netflix, Starz needs to up its game.

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    2. Thanks for your kind word Kelly. I too am very excited about what this means for Starz and therefore Outlander---Starz has to make a bold move or they'll fall further behind. With all the new content being created by streaming only groups like Netflix, Starz needs to up its game.

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  12. Great article and so very true about about Outlander fans!!! Big move by Starz but they definitly deserve the recognition for their orginal programming and the cast and creators of Outlander deserve mega awards for their acting, set design, music, costume design; the list could go on. Personally I do not care what night Outlander comes on as long as we get a Season 3 and hopefully beyond!! GOT & Jon Snow can be watch OnDemand later. Bring on Outlander any day of the week as long as we keep getting it!!!!!

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    1. I'm with you! I do wish they'd announce season three just so we can plan what is now going to be a lonnnnnngggg droughtlander. :(

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  13. Living in Spain, we are already used to see OL on Sunday night and it remains available for a long time. Is OK because AFTER the football games and programms (hahaha) but I usually see the show on Monday after work.

    Thank you for your great articles!

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    1. Thanks for reading! And yes, really, who only watches an episode once anyway? The day of the week doesn't matter to me. What matters is MORE OUTLANDER!

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    2. Thanks for reading! And yes, really, who only watches an episode once anyway? The day of the week doesn't matter to me. What matters is MORE OUTLANDER!

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  14. It doesnt matter what night Outlander is on it is a must see. Am I the only one that has a DVR?

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    1. Haha. Between DVR and On Demand and streaming apps---we can see it as many times as we want fortunately!

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  15. I love Outlander (books), but I'm not such a fan of the series... is an illusion find that Outlander can compete with GOT, honestly... I will never stop watching GOT to watch Outlander, and also has Penny Dreadful, that is great, I love this series more than Outlander. In my case, Outlander will be for the next day. My priorities are GOT and Penny Dreadful.

    And sometimes I like to watch the previous GOT episode before the new episode, many GOT fans do it... so Outlander will definitely stay for another day.

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    1. Vanessa--that's part of the beauty about the way TV is now. We can all watch the shows we want so many different ways and so many different times. I watch GOT too, although Outlander is my first choice and GOT my second--the opposite from you. The important part is we watch both! :)

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  16. I watch Outlander seven days a week already...this won't change anything for me. I just hope that Starz will let Voyager be split into two seasons. There's no way to fit that story into thirteen episodes and do it justice.
    Tulach Ard!

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    1. Sherry. I can't even tell you how many times I've rewatched episodes. I'm with you there!. I agree with you generally about dividing Voyager into two season--the only bad part of that is longer droughtlanders! Ugh!

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  17. I don't think that Outlander will have a problem competing with any other shows, I watch them too. But Outlander is simply the best...then all the rest

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    1. Spomenka weaver--you won't get any argument from me on this one! Outlander is my favorite show of perhaps all time....and that's a lot of TV shows!

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  18. There is always a DVR to record those other Sunday night shows. Outlander will be first. GOT and Homeland I'll watch Monday during lunch!!!!

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  19. I will watch no matter what day!! We are gonna thaw winter away from GOT alone..

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  20. I will watch,wherever, whenever it doesn't matter to me. I love and adore this show unconditionally! I do think Sunday night airings can boost ratings by bringing in new viewers, give it some Emmy credibility and therefore having Starz decide to have the series run through book 9.

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    1. Susan--I'm sure that's the hope by Starz execs when they made this announcement. Existing fans will follow them anywhere but new fans are on Sunday nights....and YES to do ALL the books!

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  21. All I can say is thank the gods the DVR records more that one channel at the same time.

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  22. So now I will have to stay awake until 12:01 Sunday morning to see a new episode. STARZ is the ONLY pay cable channel I have and will keep it even during the droughts.

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  23. Channgeling46--yup that's probably what I'll do too. I think Starz knows its fans will do whatever it takes to watch this show no matter when it airs!

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  24. I'll be there, no matter when. Thrilled over S3. Best cast and crew ever #Outlander!!!

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    1. June Yes! The better Starz does, the better for Outlander. They're going to stick with a winner to help them along.

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  25. I'll be there, no matter when. Thrilled over S3. Best cast and crew ever #Outlander!!!

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  26. I don't care when it airs...it will be my first watch. I can DVR GoT but I need my "Scot" fix. I like to watch the week befores episode and then the new one and can't see myself doing anything different. So go ahead and move it cause it don't make no difference to me!!!

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    1. So with you Cat! I'm a GOT watcher but absolutely secondarily to Outlander. I think Starz is counting on fans who watch both to look at them in that order. I don't think Outlander fans will disappoint!

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  27. I, for one, am against a split season. If anything, they need to extend the season back to 16 episodes. So much of Voyager takes place in a variety of locations that 13 episodes could not possibly be enough to tell that much story. BUT if a split season guarantees 16 eps, I'll take it!!!

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    1. I agree that a split season PLUs droughtlander will make the waiting interminable....especially since book readers know what's going to happen at the end of this season and season 3/4.....if they end this season the way DIA ends in the book it's going to be a long sad wait :(

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  28. If it ain't broke don't fix it.Sunday TV viewing for me is jammed.Depending on what time of the year it is. Sunday was reserved for SHOTIME and HBO viewing. My ON Demand list will be on overload for sure and I have no excuse for not going out on Saturday night

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