You need to wake up. It’s time to evolve. I don’t mean the way you say to your little brother when he puts your panties on his head and runs around the house. I don’t even mean the way you say it to your husband when he drinks one too many adult beverages, wakes up the next morning and asks why he’s got a splitting headache either. You need to wake up and evolve because you finally have a quality product in Outlander, and you’ve done nothing to take your own brand to the next level. You need to wake up and evolve because, in comparison to HBO, you’re barely even an amoeba. And, it shouldn’t have to be that way. Here’s why…
Listen, this isn’t hate mail. It’s really not. My wife and I enjoy Outlander a lot. In fact, we’ve created a pretty popular podcast AND blog dedicated to that very show. We like it THAT much. So please don’t misunderstand me when I say “you’re barely even an amoeba.” Look at this letter as being more of a “come-to-Jesus” moment for you, as opposed to me throwing darts at your extremely vulnerable behind. What I say here comes from only a place of peace and love.
I may have compared you to HBO (the fairness of the comparison is also debatable), but I don’t want you to be HBO. In fact, you can’t. And that’s ok. But, you have to admit that they are doing all the right things for their content and their network. So, you should at least be inspired by them. This letter is a guide to what you can do to fix your meandering faults and past transgressions. In other words, with this letter, I want you to help me help you.
You see, I watch a LOT of television and films. You could probably call me a junkie for good TV. I’m a J.J. Abrams
and Damon Lindelof
sycophant. Vince Gilligan
and David Chase
can do no wrong in my opinion; I’m definitely an apologist for all things Bryan Fuller
and Mitch Hurwitz
, and, please, don’t even mention the name Chris Carter
or else I’ll literally pass out as I write this. So, as you can see, I have a pretty unique perspective.
With that said, I’ve noticed that the key to quality programming isn’t just about good storytelling (otherwise Arrested Development
, Freaks and Geeks,
and Twin Peaks
would still be around – probably
). No my fickle friend, the key to transcendent programming is a mix between quality story, money spent, and a dynamic marketing campaign.
We all know that HBO is the man among little boys. They’ve got everything down perfect. The best talent, the best directors, and the best product all flock to their offices in New York. When one produces the likes of Game Of Thrones, True Detective, The Soprano’s, The Leftovers, Veep, Boardwalk Empire et al, you can do basically anything you want. So it’s easy for them. AND IT SHOULD BE. HBO spends money on their productions, they collaborate with all kinds of media (yes, this is a specific reference to podcasts and blogs), and they market like they invented the concept of marketing.
AMC comes in as a close second – the have extremely quality content, they’re willing to take chances (Breaking Bad, anyone?), they know how to get their product out into the aether with the best of them (looking at you, The Walking Dead), but they fall short because they’re too stiff with their funds (poor, poor Matthew Weiner and Mad Men.)
But, you – **deep sigh** you, my dear STARZ have blown it. You’ve blown it because after years of putting out sub standard product, you finally have a good (encroaching great) series in Outlander and you’ve done the bare minimum to give it the juice it deserves.
Have you spent money on it? You’re damn right you have. Filming on location is not only hard, but extremely expensive. Just ask Anna Foerster
or Kristyan Mallett
True, you have Ron Moore as the show runner – and he did create one of the top 10 greatest shows of all time in Battlestar Galactica. So, if you’re smart, you’ll stay out of his way and let the man do his thing because he has a proven track record. But I think you probably already know that.
Even in that same vein, you were smart by selecting a series that already has an established fandom. It would be like taking Harry Potter, Twilight, or even The Hunger Games and making into a weekly show. (side note – who wouldn’t want to see those movies as a premium cable series? Well, maybe not Twilight.) Smart move.
Furthermore, you’ve plucked actors out of obscurity to play the leads, and you’ve sprinkled in some character actors to help flesh out the rest of the cast. Also smart. But, when I look at this from afar, is that your doing? Or is it the genius that is Maril Davis? Perhaps it’s all Ron Moore. These are creative choices, and those are usually left to the people who are proficient at being creative. So, if it’s my guess – I’m saying it’s probably the latter and not you.
So let’s take a look at some of your decisions as of late:
1. Breaking Outlander season 1 into two different parts:
horrible choice. That’s a way to kill casual fan’s interest right away. Maybe you sucked people in with the first half, but the normal TV – goer will lose track of you if they aren’t given the entire season up front. They’ll forget when it comes back on, miss the second half, and then get discouraged because they’re too far behind in your serialized show. Sure, do you get to have two “premieres” and two “finales” by splitting the season up? Yup. But, at what creative and marketing cost? Did The Reckoning feel like a satisfactory premiere to you? Not me. In fact, critics largely call it a disjointed episode to the beginning of a disjointed second half season. Moreover, the second half felt like a totally different show altogether. Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but to some (including me), it felt like a “bait and switch.” You got us all hot-to-trot on the first half and then totally changed the tone of the story. Granted, that’s where the story went in the book, but perhaps this glaring tonal shift would not have been magnified if you kept it all as one continuous season.
2. The lack of streaming:
Congratulations, you have Starz Play. If one subscribes to STARZ, then one can download Starz Play and access your content on the go. It’s a step in the right direction. But, there’s a weak collection of films available, and you don’t have enough quality original content to attract masses. To that end, there are limited providers that are compatible with the app, and you can only download it on certain devices. But how about the people who want your content but can’t afford to have a full cable package? Why do you not have the equivalent of HBO NOW
? And then, the real issue, you pulled your streaming rights from Netflix, and have no future plans, according to your CEO Chris Albrecht, to stream on any service because it’s a “myopic content business strategy for media companies.
” So, because you apparently made “pennies” from streaming on Netflix, it’s not worth it? If it’s so “myopic,” then why have HBO and Amazon reached a deal to stream all their content? Is it just about the money? Or is it arrogance that you think your product is worth more than it is?
How about actually exposing your product to people? Is that worth it? I’m sure Vince Gilligan from Breaking Bad would have a big objection to your “myopic” contention. Let me explain: The first four seasons of Breaking Bad averaged between 1.5 to 3 million viewers in the ratings. Then before the fifth season aired, AMC announced the series would be available for streaming which led to TRIPLE the viewership by the time the series had it’s finale. Ugh – and as of this writing, you only have the first eight episode available for download on iTunes. So, in the end, the people who want to spend the money to consume your content can’t even consume the whole thing! Perhaps you think that this will boost DVD
sales (more on this later), and you’ll be able to pocket the money because the only place people can get your content is through STARZ. This is short sighted because people no longer consume that way. It’s like trying to boost VHS sales during the DVD boom by only releasing a movie on VHS. You’re swimming upstream. Trust me, we put a man on the moon – you can figure out an app and better streaming options. Which leads me to my next point.
3. Not allowing your network to be on commercial cable accounts: Here’s the deal, a bar, a hotel, or any kind of company with a commercial subscription is not able to access your content. Again – WTF?!? Do you know that in New York, some bar’s most popular and profitable nights ALL YEAR come on the night that Game Of Thrones airs on HBO? Why? Because people can’t afford to subscribe to HBO so they all gather in a place that has the subscription and watch it together. Now, does that encourage personal subscription as much? No. But, it exposes your content to tens of thousands of people who normally wouldn’t see it. Perhaps if they like it enough, they’ll save up the ten extra bucks per month and subscribe so they don’t have to go to the bars anymore when your show comes on. Once again, we put a man on the moon – figure it out.
4. Your content has been horrible up until now: I’m sure David S. Goyer would tell me otherwise (and he may have a case because he helped write one of the greatest films of all time in The Dark Knight), but DaVinci’s Demons sucks. So does Black Sails. Sorry, but it’s true. Camelot (despite the gorgeous and exquisitely talented Eva Green) was sub par. And then you have the likes of Party Down (awful), Survivor’s Remorse (??????), Magic City(?!?!?!?!?!?), The White Queen (decent at best) and The Missing (not bad). Power? Yikes. Although, I will give you credit for a good, if not uneven run for Spartacus. My point is, you haven’t done yourself any favors up until Outlander, Ash vs. Evil Dead, and Blunt Talk. Thank you for making better choices as of late, but no one will subscribe, let alone trust your content enough, if your content keeps being sub par.
5. Where, oh where, is any semblance of a viral marketing campaign, or even, any marketing for that matter?:
Please learn from the likes of LOST, The Leftovers, Game Of Thrones, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. Have you ever done some Draping
? It’s effing awesome. Or, did you see The Guilty Remnant take over Times Square last year? Or Anything they did for The Leftovers all year?
Thank Damon Lindelof for that. How about the LOST Find 815 campaign
, Dharma Initiative Recruting Project
, or the LOST ARG
? Or all the merchandise
that Game Of Thrones produces? Or how could we EVER forget the “Respect The Chemistry
” series for Breaking Bad?
You haven’t even done the likes of advertising outside of New York or LA for extended periods of time. What about the fact that Bear McCreary
has been nominated for an Emmy for his work on Outlander, and you’ve done nothing to truly
promote that accomplishment? Or, your Outlander season 1 vol. 2 DVD
is coming out on September 29, and I had to Google the date to know when it was happening for this article? I HAVE A PODCAST for this show. Of all the people who consume your content, I should know it right off the top of my head and I don’t. How will people know when to buy, or what to buy of your product if you aren’t even advertising it properly? But let’s take it even further – where are the billboards? Where are the buses/buildings/benches/book stores covered in Outlander garb? Where are Jacobite recruiting stations? Where are the unruly Scotsmen taking over downtown Boston, Chicago, NY, or LA? Where are the Outlander inspired Tartans? How about an Outlander Whisky? I could go on and on but I think you get the idea….
6. You haven’t embraced social media and alternative media: Sure, you have social accounts and occasionally you put up some cute pictures, Q & A sessions, or quotes. Occasionally you’ll engage with some fans on Twitter, and you’ll do a cutesie deal with Walkers Shortbread. BUT, there is no REAL engagement with your audience. Your audience is, for the most part, savvy enough to join these communities and listen to podcasts and write blogs. They want to talk about you, learn about you, and consume more of your show in Outlander. But, you’re not letting them. You need to be more up-to-date about how you disseminate your information, your content, and your brand. Why? BECAUSE IT’S FREE ADVERTISING, and it’s just as valuable, if not more, than some random billboard. People describe passion, and love far more articulately than a commercial. Your fans, and their word, are more valuable. Trust me. These media are written by your fans, for your fans. You need to embrace that more whole heartedly.
Listen, I know it sounds like I want you to be HBO from all the things I have listed. In a way, that’s right. Did the USFL want to be like the NFL? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But where the USFL went wrong is that it tried to BECOME the NFL and surpass it. It was unrealistic then, and it’s unrealistic now. Thus, it failed.
HBO will not be toppled and I don’t even want you to try. They won’t be toppled in the same way that ESPN will always be the World Wide Leader in Sports, or the fact that America will always “run on Dunkin,” or NBC, ABC, or CBS just can’t find a way to make good original content. (I hate you CSI, NCIS, and every incarnation thereof.) It will always be that way. But, you can do better by the fans and the content they love by making your brand more interesting and more accessible.
Do you know how many people I have spoken to that not only do not watch Outlander because they don’t have STARZ, but also because they’ve either never heard of you, or the show? It’s sickening. True, was Game Of Thrones the zeitgeist it is now after it’s first season? Nope. But, EVERYONE at least heard about it. And I would argue that Outlander season 1 was just a good and entertaining as Game Of Thrones season 1 – if not more.
What does that tell me? It’s not the content. It’s you. And that’s ok. Just do the right thing and fix your strategy.
I just want you to be STARZ. You don’t have to become the most prominent premiere cable network in the land. You just have to put yourself in the right spot to be considered in that class. You have to be you, and be good at it.
You’ve kinda/ sorta started to spend the money. You have the beginnings of some good talent/content. You’ve clearly also made Outlander your flagship show (and it should be). Now you just have to wake up, evolve, and go the extra mile for it.
I swear, I love you. I really do.
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Nailed it! I hope STARZ listens and obeys! 😀
To quote GOT, you know nothing, Jon Snow.
First of all, let me just point out that the head of Starz is Chris Albrecht who was formerly head of HBO and developed and promoted some pretty well-known shows, not the least of which was Sex and the City. He was flying high before he got fired by HBO. Why did HBO fire him? Because he is an asshole who repeatedly beat up wives and girlfriends. When the PR on that got too hot, HBO had to fire him. He know what he is doing.
As to the lack of PR, I'd say that the amount of PR has been just about right for a show that is in production and currently in broadcast hiatus. Yes, I know that everyone feels that there should be lots of PR and production coverage despite the fact that the show would like to have some surprises for viewers when it returns, but they are doing the right thing. Now, consider the plight of the PR executive who is charged with getting Starz's new shows off the ground and getting publicity for their returning shows. Oh, so when Outlander returns, you would rather that the Starz publicity department focus on promoting Survivor's Remorse? You get my drift.
As far as concentrating publicity on the flyover states, I might point out that the most entertainment news is usually generated on the east and west coasts, as opposed to what are usually referred to the flyover states. This is where you want your show to be talked about. This is where you want the TV tastemakers who do things like nominate shows and actors for the Emmys live and work.
As far as the second half of the show being different than the first half, I would say that all in all, it was a pretty good reflection of how the novel Outlander is structured. If it were going to be split, that was the logical place to do it. Starz likely had very good promotional reasons for doing that, and the split season of programming Outlander has not damaged Starz in the slightest. In fact, it is now the second most watched premium cable network after HBO, having overtaken Showtime this year…perhaps on the strength of Outlander.
I cannot speak to the fact the Starz has not chosen to make their shows available to certain commercial outlets, but I do remember seeing a photo of a startled family in a diner being shocked by the Wedding episode during a family meal, so it does seem as if it is possible to have it screened in bars, which, by the way, does nothing for Starz's main metric for success — the number of homes subscribing to the network.
Wow you've got a lot to say. I agree, but I have to let you know that Shomi Canada has the first 8 episodes of Season 1, and I'm hoping that means the next 8 will happen at least after September 29th. I've tried to find other ways of streaming, but this is the only one I've been successful with, at least here in Canada.
Many excellent points. I, too, am concerned about the lack of creative marketing and not utilizing social media more. It's just a huge missed opportunity especially given all the seemingly dozens of social media dedicated exclusively to Outlander. It's frustrating for me to passionately talk about Outlander to friends and family (as I so often do) but then once I get a person interested, there are few ways for them to actually watch, particularly if they are not STARZ subscribers. I hope this post gets the attention it deserves. Outlander MUST continue past Season 2. STARZ needs to help it get there.
Because Strarz wants them to subscribe. That's how Starz makes money.
I am so sorry, Roseanne, but us FlyOver Folk have TV's, Cable, WIFI, Streaming, Computers,Tablets. There are a whole bunch of us and we also watch multi viewing sources. We count just as much as the coasts, but it could be we don't whine as much as the coast folks do soooo I am here to whine for them. FlyOver Folks Matter
Thank you for writing this piece!!!!!
That's the thinking of the industry, not mine.
Starz is not available in Canada sooooo it is available on Showcase which thinks it is okay to have 1 minute of ads for each 2 minutes of show….and break the show with no thought for content of the show….TG it is available on itunes for Canada but not for the US….I think this smack-down is deserved….
Yeeeessss!!!! And might I add, why have your leads not made the rounds of the actual mainstream talkshows? I'm sorry but panels at conventions are not enough. These are extremely charming actors. Why are they not on the Tonight Show et al?
RIGHT ON DUDE!
I couldn't agree more! You are 100% right and they should be smart to listen to you.
Keep up the great work 🙂
This is one of the many reasons why die-hard Outlander fans vote their favorite stars and characters into the winners' circle of so many popularity contests. Word gets out, their names get around, and the legion of the curious becomes the bulwark of a fan base, thus giving the series a bit more security in coming years. We want 9+ more years of Outlander and if Starz won't do it, the fans will.
STARZ, you have pure magic in your hands! Please make it happen……
I agree with a lot of what your saying Blake and Starz, is definitely missing out on some part of the viewing audience, by not using a streaming service, like Amazon; for all who can't afford cable much less a premium package. I know Showtime cut a deal with Hulu, to stream their programing to reach more viewers. I wish Starz would do the same, I know many who want to watch Outlander, but either cancelled their cable or went with basic cable,
loved the use of myopic….kidding aside,to use an industry term,dead on balls accurate!
The actors are in Scotland filming the second season.
iTunes Canada has all eps, and has done all along under a season pass, each coming available a few hours after airing here on Showcase.
Verra intriguing article, especially about tapping into the fans and fan groups who are ready and willing and TRYING (while butting heads against the STARZ wall) to provide FREE MARKETING. Numerous groups are starving for information and trying to have a two-way dialogue with STARZ to help brave the new frontiers. There are immediate changes that should take place to get some liasons to the social medial fans that are leaders or catalysts in the Outlander fandom. What is in place now is a far cry from working WITH the fandom.
Blake, some tidbits I noted that i wanted to mention as an FYI or to add fuel to the fire.
This week Survivors Remose was upped for Season 3. It made my head hurt knowing that we still have no commitment for an Outlander S3…just some innuendo in an article by Ron.
Didn't I see a bottle of Outlander Whiskey brought on stage by Kristin at one of the panels…I agree, why the hell is that not something we can all get our hands on?! (I am sure it was just a prop but it looked like real packaging) Ultimately this is low on my priorities but since u brought it up…
Last week Starz finally became available on ROKU, so that is a miracle, adding yet another streaming platform. All 16 episodes are avail immediately.
Regarding Netflix, maybe I missed, but I don't believe Outlander was ever available for streaming. Only for those subscribed to still receive DVDs by mail. WHO DOES THAT ANYMORE? Certainly let me know if I missed some blip in time when it was available for streaming. It should have been from day 1 as soon as the show was released to Amazon and so on. I understand there are deals that have to be made, but what an opportunity LOST. It sure would have helped my efforts to bring on new viewers that don't have Starz.
You might find this press release interesting about STARZ's efforts in the direct-to-consumer market….Not sure what the plan is for outside of this, but a model is being put in place for the middle east and africa. At least there are steps in the right direction. http://ir.starz.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=904497
Since this is really your blog and your message, i don't want to take up much more space.
Oh, and one more thing, if ever there was a PR effort needed, maybe someone should talk to one of the lead actors about 1: how to say thank you and 2: how not to deflate a social media rally in the middle of it that is keeping OUTLANDER in the headlights for FREE. And…nothing like trying to minimize one’s co-stars achievements in the process…
The actors could've done the full circuit before the first premiere or at the end of the first droughtlander, or at any of the many times they were in the states. Starz dropped the ball on this. Big time. One appearance by Sam Heughan on a network talkshow could've spiked Starz subscriptions. It boggles my mind that Starz isn't taking full advantage of their beautiful stars.
Blake, you are right on and this echoes what so many of us have been questioning. I've tried really really hard to give Starz the benefit of the doubt, because, after all, they ordered so many episodes for the first season and are clearly spending $$$ on the production. They announced Season 2 so quickly, I thought for a long time that they were really behind this show. And so much of the social media marketing wouldn't cost them that much! I do hope that they would see the long term benefits of streaming, etc. So now the question is, what is our strategy for making sure that someone with influence at Starz reads your letter to them? Thanks for writing this!!! But p.s. I do love "Black Sails". Have to disagree with ya on that one.
The thing is that Sam Heughan is doing all the heavy lifting (pun intended) on social media whilst Cait gives the impression that it lacks her kind of gravitas to engage. This comes off as awkward and off-putting. There is real magic when Sam and Cait riff off one another. Book them on the Graham Norton show (because they are right there anyway) and any other media outlet in the UK (assuming that they are not doing US shows because they are filming over there right now) and, dammit, get this marvelous show some attention. This show has the potential to be really big because it tells one helluva story and has assembled one of the most interesting casts any of us have ever seen. There is so much passion for this show that it would be criminal for it not to go on for many seasons to come.
I wonder if this could have contributed to the cast and various departments not being nominated for Emmy's. Maybe Outlander was such an unknown product that it didn't catch their interest.
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I'm not sure if this statement went through last night, as FB was having difficulties. So if this shows up twice, I apologize.
I appreciate your research on how big networks handle their business. I admit it is a subject I could not debate, seeing how I have little knowledge of it. I look at the problem in simpler terms. Our society has changed from taking responsibility to blaming it on someone else. We just can't make ourselves admit fault to others, much less to ourselves. So I ask this….When did things change in the film industry, that the producer takes no responsibility for producing his own product? Why not look at the shows' ratings that went down the second half, and come up with another reason besides Starz PR. You were praising Ron Moore as the expert in delivering series hits, but Battlestar Galactia went by by once he started changing the storyline and putting his own twist to it. Then there's Helix that lasted two years and then gone. The first half of OL had moments where it veered off course, but for the most part Ron did as he promised Diana Gabaldon…..stayed as close to the books as possible, Second half…..well we saw a show with the name Outlander, but in name only. The inconstancy of one episode to the next pointed towards writers never conferring with each other. Often times a character would say or do something one episode, then reappear saying or doing the opposite. Ron wanted half his writers to give a new take on the story, so reading the books wasn't required. Many of the writers say they did read the books, but obviously they were not impressed with Diana's writings, and believed they could do better. Ron being one of them. If they were going to write a new story, then at least get everyone on the same boat. Fans are likely wanting to stone me now. Many believe to speak out against the show, would make Ron quit. I don't think so. If he were to leave, it would not be from his own decision. There are several other examples of Ron changing and adding, and not because there wasn't any time left, but rather he wanted his work on the screen. His goal was to win an emmy on his work, not Diana's. (episodes 7,15.16) Fans do not believe or place any blame on Ron. This is evident from you're own letter above. And if the fans don't, then why should Ron? It's back to the our society standard…"It's not my fault". If the responsibility was spread around to everyone involved in making this series happen, and their own admission of things going wrong, then maybe Starz would announce a season 3
Are we seriously gonna throw Cait under the bus, here? She has to deal with endless speculation of her love-life, including people actually stalking her friends and family. It's no wonder if she's soured toward the fandom. I get annoyed enough on her behalf, I can't imagine how it feels to be the focus of all that negativity. Her job, at the end of the day, is to show up on set, give her best performance, and then go home. It is not to fulfill fan fantasies about Sam/Cait or to banter back and forth on Twitter. Genuine publicity tours are another matter, that really get new eyeballs on the show and still allow the stars some personal mystery, without being endlessly dissected online. Let's face it, if you're a book-reader, you're aware of and watching the show. As much as many people seem not to want to accept, the show is going to be successful long-term by bringing in viewers new to the series, and that means mass marketing, not just interaction with current fans.
The producer has always been under the thumb of the network or studio. This is not new news.
Regarding your comment "His goal was to win an emmy on his work, not Diana's."…..One tiny quibble, Ron has made it clear time and again in interviews that he doesn't do his work to obtain an emmy or any award.
– Thx, Sanitychek
I made a mistake on who said this. It was Diana Herself
Thank you so much! What about it grabbed your attention most?
Thanks, Mel! Don't let my head get too big though! Which was the most pertinent point you think?
haha Caroline – is that a good OMG, or bad OMG?
Thanks! Well, who knows if they listen. They just need to evolve a little bit IMO. What do you think they would be most likely to listen to?
Hi Roseanne! Thanks so much for your thoughts. It seems like your pretty passionate in your defense of STARZ. Rightfully so, as they have created Outlander and done a fine creative job of it.
But, let me address some of your concerns in the same order you wrote them:
1. I'm sure Chris Albrecht is a smart man. Guiding HBO through the years of SATC, The Wire, The Soprano's up until 2007 as chairman of HBO Original programming is definitely a creative feat. He certainly knows what he is doing in terms of creativity. But, as far as the overall business of running a network – he definitely has a lot to prove (especially under the constraints of a fledgling network like STARZ.) It'd be like telling someone to go from running The Yankees, to running The Athletics, but producing the same results with a quarter of the resources. It's unrealistic.
In terms of the PR, I should have been clearer about my desire for the PR to amp up as the show is on air. But, when it comes to awards season (which we are in now) there should be MUCH MORE effort to get the STARZ brand out into the public eye. One could argue that no one pays attention to their network because it has been relatively insignificant on the macro cable level. The PR team certainly needs to focus on it's other shows – totally agree. But what other shows have been nominated for EMMYS? None. More importantly, every STARZ promotion starts with something Outlander related. That's fact. That also tells me they know they have the golden goose and want to promote that fact. So they SHOULD pay special attention to it. Your contention is that they have to pay less attention to Outlander in favor of the the newer shows. To an extent, I see your point. But that would be like asking HBO to forsake Game Of Thrones promotion because Ballers just came out. You and I both know that doesn't happen.
Flyover States: You are relatively correct about this notion. The Coasts matter the most.
THe Second half of the show: The second half is undoubtedly different than the first half. Whether it was in the book or not, that is just fact. The tone was completely shifted. That said, I actually loved it. But by splitting the show when it did (and there was no real reason for this because it had all been shot at one time) it did frustrate the hardcore fans, alienate the casual fan, and kill the overall narrative structure. Could there have been a natural split there? Sure. But that doesn't mean it serves the story or the PR properly.
You're reasoning behind the support of starz, which is, "Starz likely had a very good promotional reasons for doing that" is weak at best. What are the reasons? What is the advantage? I refuse to accept this notion being ok, just because they chose to do it. Their choice to do so is niether indicative, nor validation of a correct choice. It simply happened. And while Starz did surpass Showtime recently – that was only in fourth quarter numbers and the margin is so thin between STARZ and SHOWTIME that they will likely bop back and forth. So, to say that Outlander helped those numbers is probably accurate seeing that STARZ has always floundered in comparison to SHOWTIME in years past. But, to say that the break in between the half seasons of Outlander did nothing to "damage" Starz is a little misleading. Those numbers have yet to come out as they are done quarterly, and I would be interested to see the subscription rate after the run of Outlander this year.
As for STARZ's metric of success, yes, home subscriptions do matter. Which, is why they never rely on ratings because the subscriptions pay the bills. But, you are wrong that Outlander can be screened on commerical subscriptions. I know this is fact because I have tried to set up podcast events for viewing Outlander at commerical locations and they don't allow it. Again, my article is about exposing your product to people who wouldn't normally see it. If you allow commerical subscription, you are doubling perhaps tripling your viewers (nevermind overall cash flow) it seems ignorant to limit your viewership. Like I said above, if a bar is able to screen it, that allows lets say 500 people to have eyes on your product. Let's say 50 of those people really LOVE your product and decide to subscribe on their own. Well, you've just gained 50 more subscribers. In your notion that bars don't matter because they aren't getting the volume, then you gain NO subscribers because they aren't exposed to the product. So would you rather have 0 subscribers or 50 subscribers from one subscription at a bar. The math speaks for itself.
Let's also delve into the idea of money for the STARZ brand overall. It's not just about subscriptions either. It's about LICENSING. The goal is to create a valid and thriving IP (such as Outlander), and then surround it with licensed products and services that people can consume ON TOP OF your show. Books, DVD's, games, soundtracks, drinks, clothes, all of that. Let's say someone does not subscribe to STARZ but watches it at a hotel, or a bar, and falls in love with it. Then they go home, tell their families, or friends "Dude, you gotta watch this show I just seen," and then the family or friends subscribe eventually. Then they love it so much that they buy the latest Outlander t shirt, or they get the DVD or whatever. It's about surrounding products around the show to make money.
That's why athletes like Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, or Michael Jordan make TRIPLE their income from their sports salary in product merchandising and advertising.
Relying and focusing on subscription levels, and using that argument to justify their success, or lack thereof, is short sighted and not applicable. It's more than that. It's about exposing your product, gaining the consumers trust, and then capitalizing on it by sending and selling more products to them. You can't do that by limiting the eyes on your product.
Thanks Deann! WHat did you agree with?
Thanks Jill! What was the best point in your opinion?
Kendra – we are in full agreeance here. They can do video interviews, they can appear on the radio, they can appear on PODCASTS, they can do a number of things while filming.
I hadn't thought of it like this! Great point!
Ron Moore is an expert. There is no denying it regardless of BSG's ratings. Which, btw, don't necessarily matter as it relates to the art of storytelling. LOST's ratings plummeted towards the end, but it was still a cultural PHENOMENON. BSG suffered because it was on a small network that no one watched. But, the story itself, the creativity, thanks to Ron Moore was unparalleled. Let's not even forget his contributions to Star Trek TNG, or DS9. They speak for themselves.
As for the second half of OL, I can't speak to the accuarcy of the show in regards to the Book. Frankly, I don't care how accurate it was as long as it made compelling television. It did (for the most part.) You make a few logic jumps that don't make sense though:
1. the writers never conferred because there was inconsistency. Eek, I don't see the inconsistency, but there is a writers room thats head by ISB and they talk all the time. That's fact. So I don't know where you get that idea.
2. The writers weren't impressed with DG's writings: again, eek – i'm not seeing that. Some things just don't translate well to TV (see: the wolf)
3. Helix was not run by Ron Moore – so I'm not seeing the connection.
4. I don't think Ron's goal was to win an emmy – I don't know of any publication that has stated that. Don't know where that comes from either.
5. I'm also not seeing a connection on how starz would announce a season 3 if Ron Moore took blame for something. ( I still don't know what he has to take blame for btw)
Having spent over 35 years in the TV business, let me get a little more detailed about the good promotional reasons Starz had for splitting Outlander into two separate seasons. There are two main reasons for this, since you seem to like numbered reasoning:
1. Outlander at 16 episodes is significantly longer than most series on prime cable networks. The usual season is about 12-13 episodes as compared to TV networks that have usually ordered 12 episodes as an initial order followed by what is known as the back 9.
2. Starz was using Outlander as a tent pole, that is, a show that is programmed to help promote other shows and to cross-pollinate audiences. I do not follow Starz's numbers in any great detail, so I have no idea as to whether or not this strategy was successful for them. However, I do know that Outlander did help to raise the subscriptions to Starz, fulfilling at least some of its promise.
The other element that is being left out of the equation here is Sony. Outlander is licensed by Starz, but the product is produced by Sony, which, to use an outdated terminology, means that they own the negative. OK, so what does this mean– it means that at the end of the day, after whatever contractually obligated usages by Starz are fulfilled, Sony owns the product. I would actually place quite a bit of the problem with PR for Outlander on a world-wide basis in Sony's lap, more than Starz. But consider this — Sony, despite whatever lapses in marketing you feel they have been guilty of — has sold Outlander to many foreign outlets.(For more information on this, google Sony, Mipcom and Outlander.) I surmise that they are likely out of the red on the show, but since the most creative people in Hollywood are the accountants, I am sure they are not showing a profit. But make no mistake here: Sony owns Outlander, not Starz.
All licensing for shows and movies are extremely complicated since they involve multitudes. You cannot show a likeness of Sam or Cait in regard to anything BUT the show itself without a separate negotiation. Ditto certain elements that draw specifically on the books, ditto certain elements that draw specifically on episodes or story elements specific to the show. As far as I know, there are some licensed goods coming into the marketplace this fall. Remember that until Outlander was picked up for a second season, most licensees would not want to invest capital in a show that might be a one off. Notice that things like Funko dolls and coloring books and such carry no likeness of the stars.
As far as people watching Outlander in a bar, my feeling is that it is a poor choice for viewing in a venue where sports are the main draw. And to screen a show that in ideal conditions can be difficult for some viewers to understand because of the accents would not be successful. This is not a show for people who just want to hang out and have some brewskis with the boys. I'd love to see the day.
I absolutely agree with everything you said Mr. Larsen!! Fantastic content!! You hit the nail on the head!! Please continue to try to make Starz wake up……they're doing Outlander a disservice. Thank you!
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I fell in love w Outlander with the books.
I considered getting Starz, and on my limited income, I would have to give up something. The deciding factor was other than Outlanders, there was nothing else on Starz I WANTED. So instead of a subscription to Starz, I would save the money and get the DVDs instead when they came out – maybe Xmas gift to myself.
And I'm sure I'm not the only one. BUT if Starz would do 1/2 of what you suggested, I might be persuaded to get that subscription and find other content on Starz that justifies keeping it.
From Rome, Italy, a roaring and liberating applause! I wandered searching to explain my feelings about Outlander TV series – a rare and majestic creature – and his imagine. Starz handle something speciak, different, revolutionary – due to a combination of factors (great books, great crew, great cast, great location, great script and so on – and they have the duty to take care of. On twitter, many site are so tacky or depressing, but many other deserve greater attention and exploitation. Outlander IS NOT ONLY LOVE, is deepest human emitions, a land's history, landscape sky-high, inusual intricacies, humour, beauty, eros, fights. STARZ, DO MORE AND BETTER TO DESERVE OUTLANDER and all the people worked for and believed in.
Good article and I agree with a lot of it. I'm frustrated by their inconsistent program scheduling, or so it seems. By the time they get around to a second or next season of anything, I've almost forgotten all about whatever show it was. I've forgotten the details of the story as well, which makes it hard to follow the next season. HBO also does this with Game of Thrones, which I also don't like. I suppose I'm used to a life of network scheduling, where there is usually a Spring and Fall season of a show. Waiting an entire year for another season makes me wander off and lose interest.
I'm at a point where I'm deciding if I should cancel Starz altogether from my cable package, and I'm leaning toward cancellation. I hope they go back to streaming some of their shows on either Amazon or Hulu, since they've burned the bridge with Netflix, because there just isn't enough content on Starz, original or anything else, to warrant a continual subscription, in my opinion.
I think your advice to them is fairly spot on, except I do like DaVinci's Demons quite a bit, and I like Black Sails mostly for the production value, but I do enjoy the show.
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I really wish they would bring Camelot back. That was a good show! I am living Outlander so far, can’t wait for season 5!