This sudden panic has literally set my brain ablaze. And quite frankly, I am writing this piece because the misinformation being spewed out by people has aggravated me. I intend on showing you the reasonable outcome here, and not fear mongering like some. Whether or not people are saying these things because they’re worried, or they’re insecure, or because they want to start a conversation for the sake of conversation, isn’t my concern. All I care about is getting everyone to take a chill pill.
1. WHY HAVEN’T THEY ANNOUNCED OUTLANDER SEASON 3 YET?!
Networks need a lot of viable IP’s (AKA Intellectual Properties) in order to compete in an over saturated market. As long as they have decent ratings, the networks will keep producing the shows that work. Also, season 3 announcements, virtually across the board, never come early (barring some outliers here and there.) As such, if we have not gotten an Outlander season 3 announcement by the time season 2 ends, then we have a problem. Until then, rest easy.
2. BUT STARZ RENEWS SHOWS DIFFERENTLY THAN EVERYONE!
You can’t say that STARZ renews differently than everyone because they announce the first two seasons usually in tandem or very close to each other. While that differs (slightly) from other broadcast networks, this is a relatively common practice for subscription networks like HBO, Showtime, etc.. (See: Game Of Thrones, Dexter, Ballers, Veep, Silicon Valley, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Homeland, Penny Dreadful, etc.)
Like I said in my previous article, networks must “wait and see” how their products are being received during the second season before they re-up on any further seasons of their IP’s.
Why bother renewing something if it’s not being received well after two seasons, right?
So, for the sake of posterity, I will include what I wrote about the “apples-to-apples” comparison of STARZ historical choices regarding season 3 announcements.
Season 3 renewal date: June 2012
Season 2 premiere date: March 2014
Season 3 renewal date: May 2014
Season 2 premiere date: Early June 2015
Season 3 renewal date: Late June 2015
But again, this is most certainly the exception and NOT the rule. Even in terms of STARZ alone.
3. BUT OUTLANDER RATINGS ARE DOWN! STARZ WON’T RENEW!
First off, the ratings are not down if you are comparing them to season 1. In fact, they are up! But, let’s dig a little further.
The premiere of Outlander season 2 has become the most popular premiere in the history of STARZ. You can read all about it here. To boil it down, Outlander overtook Power ‘s recent premiere record upon 2.01’s airing. I think it’s reasonable to assume that the show which holds the premiere record for the network is not going anywhere anytime soon.
But, lets talk about the specific ratings for each episode shall we?
Has Outlander experienced a dip on specific episodes? Sure. If you look at season 2, each episode’s ratings have seen a slight dip with each passing episode. But, let’s look closer at what the numbers say and what they actually MEAN. Here are the ratings for season 2:
All that mumbo jumbo basically says is that the amount of people watching the show totals to an average of 1.24 million people per episode.
Included in the table is also the 18-49 demographic (which is the main demo networks like to measure via the Nielsen Rating System). Most attention is paid to this group of people because they are usually who drive the trends of the industry. But that’s another conversation all together. So let’s just stick with the overall viewers. Viewers(mil).
But there are those big scary red numbers on the right hand column (% mil change) that show the ratings drops in percentages. “SEE!” the detractors will say. “The ratings are down!” But those numbers are the differences from the previous episode that just aired. That’s not differences from season 1. And they’re also not taking into consideration these facts:
1. Subscription networks (HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ etc.) don’t care about ratings as much as they care about subscriptions and who is paying the bill. (more on this in a bit.)
2. Subscription networks care about prestige television and clout in the industry. Having Ron Moore gives a lot of clout, especially to a fringe network like STARZ (more on this in a bit.)
But let’s get back to the ratings game here for a moment and check out the ratings for season 1 of Outlander:
As you can see, the ratings have not gone down from season 1 to season 2. Those big numbers in the yellow boxes at the bottom? That’s actually the average million viewers per episode. Season 1 averaged 1.04 million viewers and went UP to 1.24 so far for season 2.
But let’s bake your noodle even more…
Let’s compare the first 5 episode average from season 1 to season 2:
Episodes 1.01-1.05 averaged .882 viewers (mil)! And as you can see above, 2.01-2.05 has averaged 1.24! That’s a .358 difference! Which means that Outlander (within the first five episodes of season 2) has had an INCREASE of 358,000 viewers per episode ON AVERAGE from the first to second season. Viewership has grown, and grown pretty well.
Again, who the hell is saying the ratings are down?!? Are they actually looking at them? And, no, I didn’t just make these numbers up either. You can find them all right here in plain sight.
I know all the tables and numbers can give you a popsicle headache just looking at them. I get it. But the numbers are there and they real. (BTW, these are just the LIVE numbers – I’m not even including DVR +3 and +7 – meaning the people who watch Outlander on a DVR 7 days within the premiere of the live episode) Those numbers just make the gap in ratings even larger in season 2’s favor.
Despite the increase in viewership from season 1, there will be those who say, again, that season 2 has seen a steady drop per episode. While they are technically right, they are not considering the context of the drops.
Every show, I don’t care if it’s The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, The Blacklist, or even The View, they all have an ebb and flow of ratings episode-to-episode. Look here for yourself – type in ANY show and you will see ratings go up and down and have streaks. It happens. Yes, even to Outlander. And guess what, it even happened in Outlander season 1 too. Look again at the numbers:
See episodes 1.10 thru 1.16? The average viewers start at .25, travel up and down with each episode and finally settle on .19 for the finale (which btw, also happens to be the lowest of the bunch in season 1.) Again, it happens.
4. RATINGS AREN’T DOWN, BUT STARZ HAS CANCELED A LOT OF SHOWS – WHY WOULD OUTLANDER BE ANY DIFFERENT?
Regardless of their ratings, BOSS, Party Down, CRASH et al., we’re horrible TV series. They were critically panned. Thus, canceled. As we all know, Outlander has not been panned, and has even been considered in the Emmy’s as well as Golden Globes. So there goes that reasoning.
But how does Outlander compare to the crown jewels of STARZ , Power and Black Sails?
Power averaged 1.24 million LIVE viewers last season and Black Sails averaged just over 1 million live viewers. So the connection here is that if STARZ’s crown jewels have the same live viewer numbers as Outlander, then I think Outlander is in safe waters.
5. “BUT OUTLANDER IS EXPENSIVE TO MAKE – DON’T THEY NEED THE RATINGS TO LEGITIMIZE THE COST FOR SEASON 3?
The budget for season 1 of Outlander was reported to be $75 million dollars. Which, would translate to about 4.69 million per episode. (Which does sound like a ton of money, but a show like Game Of Thrones costs about 6 million per episode). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a reliable source to quote the budget per episode for Black Sails, but an article in the LA Times states:
“Black Sails” is an ambitious show. The big-budget, eight-episode first season was filmed in Cape Town on a massive backlot that contains a beach, a water tank with a life-size replica of an actual pirate ship and a fully functioning pirate town that stands in for the remote Bahamas outpost of New Providence Island.
Considering the on site filming, massive production value, the fact that it’s produced by the lord of destruction Michael Bay, and the cast is huge, it’s easy to assume that the production cost is the same, if not more, than Outlander. To that end, if the ratings between Black Sails and Outlander are relatively the same, the cost is the same, STARZ renewed Black Sails for a third season AND Outlander has now taken the number one rated spot for STARZ, then I think it’s fair to assume Outlander is going to be renewed for a third season too.
But, let’s reiterate this VERY IMPORTANT point – ratings are not the main metric of success for a subscription network.
If you want to know why subscription networks don’t care about ratings as much as broadcast networks do, I wrote a lengthy piece about this subject (through the lens of The Leftovers on HBO). You can read it here. But to sum it up, subscription networks aren’t beholden to advertisers like broadcast networks are.
Broadcast networks need commercials to pay for their shows, which is why you are able to watch NBC, ABC, CBS etc. for free. But if the advertisers don’t see huge numbers, they won’t buy time to advertise. So the networks have to care about the ratings.
But subscription networks count on subscriptions. As long as they keep putting out good content and getting the bills paid through their subscriptions, they can do whatever the hell they want. Thus, they don’t have to worry about ratings as long as the subscriptions keep coming in.
So here’s the next question, how are the subscriptions for STARZ performing? In the latest report of numbers last year, STARZ not only has the most subscriptions it’s ever had, but it actually just overtook SHOWTIME as the 2nd most popular subscription network once Outlander had premiered.
So trust me, while the numbers may not be huge, they’re big enough to consider STARZ as a relative success.
6. “RON MOORE IS ON ANOTHER SHOW – HE CAN’T GIVE OUTLANDER 100% AND IT’S A SIGN THAT STARZ IS MOVING ON”
There is no difference with this new Philip K. Dick series.
Sure, Ron Moore may be an EP, and he will even write some episodes. But what most people aren’t telling you is that the show is actually only a ten episode mini series and it’s going to be ran by a guy named Michael Dinner. Dinner is a veteran writer who made his bones under Graham Yost while Yost ran Justified.
You may or may not know this, but Ron Moore and Maril Davis (who is also an EP on the new series) co run Tall Ship Productions (which is the company that co-produces Outlander). Sony Television is the company that actually owns Outlander (and they use STARZ to distribute that show in the U.S.). But Tall Ship and Sony have a deal where they produce television shows together. So, since Sony Television is also producing the PKD series, they will utilize their producing partners in Tall Ship Productions (who are already in the UK where both Outlander and PKD series will be filmed) so it makes sense.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that even though this show will be aired in England, and since they already have a relationship with Tall Ship Productions, that Sony will be using the infrastructure they have created with RDM and STARZ as the vehicle to air the new PKD series in the US. It benefits Sony to do this because they have the prexisting relationship, and it benefits STARZ because it adds another high end drama (starring television darling Bryan Cranston no less) to their thin line up.
7. THE POWER OF RON D. MOORE
Here’s another thing to keep in mind – Outlander is Ron Moore’s baby. This is the most success he has had since Battlestar Galactica and it shows because he has essentially recreated his entire team from BSG. Why recreate that whole team, bring in your trusted confidant in Ira Steven Behr, and risk his multiseason deal with Sony, all for a ten episode miniseries one-off? The logic isn’t there.
And finally – here is what is as close to a smoking gun as we have via the Inquisitr:
According to Zap2it, the high ratings in Season 2 have led Moore and the rest of his team to start working on the next season. Starz has yet to green light a new season, yet there is little doubt that Outlander will be back for another year.
True, this is not an official confirmation – but given Moore’s optimistic nature when he says, “Nothing official yet but I’m very, very optimistic and we’re actively starting to plan [season 3],” then I think it’s probably as good as we’re going to get for this very moment as a confirmation. Yes, they could be planning for a pitch to STARZ, or breaking down story for what’s already a done deal behind closed doors.
You see, closed door deals happen all time – the most recent example of this was The Leftovers on HBO. HBO and Damon Lindelof had been negotiating for months before season 3 was announced. They had even reached a deal long before the announcement too. Again, this happens. You just never really are bothered to hear about these deals until it involves your favorite show.
Lastly, STARZ needs Ron Moore waaay more than the other way around. Their lineup of shows, while getting better, is not up to standard with other networks. Without Outlander, that big surge of subscriptions they experienced recently will suddenly go down the tubes. Think about it – would you be subscribing to STARZ if not for Outlander?
To have a prestige name like Moore’s attached to Outlander, which we have already established as STARZ’s most popular show, is literally worth it’s weight in gold. The only way the can continue to attract good shows, good talent, and consequently superior show runners, is to keep the talent they have.
To be honest, nabbing Moore was a huge coup for STARZ considering their lackluster rosters of shows and years gone by. They don’t want to risk their most valuable IP in Outlander, AND they don’t want to ruin their relationship with the only legitimate showrunner they have in their stable.
Believe me – when you start filtering through all the ratings, network politics, history of show renewals, the state of executive producers, network tactics and everything else discussed in this article, it’s clear to see that Outlander season 3 WILL happen.
It’s just a matter of time.