STARZ CEO Chris Albrecht is set to step down in early March of 2019. And that means the future of Outlander is a little unclear. Here’s why…
To be clear I am not saying Outlander is going to be canceled tomorrow. Outlander seasons 5 and 6 are still going to be broadcast to obsessenach screens across the globe.
But after season 6? Well, that’s a completely different story, and it all has to do with some major corporate gamesmanship. That’s because STARZ CEO Chris Albrecht’s departure actually goes way beyond just some CEO leaving his job. Driving the move are massive corporate titans including the likes of STARZ, Lionsgate, Walt Disney Company, the stock market, and even Apple.
Yes, that Apple.
But first, a little background…
Who the heck is Chris Albrecht and why does he matter?
A Hofstra grad, Albrecht worked for HBO for over 20 years with his culminating achievement in becoming the CEO of HBO. Nestled in at the top of HBO, and consequently becoming one of the most influential figures in the home entertainment market, he helped usher in the first golden age of television by approving top flight original programming such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and the City, Band of Brothers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, and countless others. Essentially, you can thank him for how frakking amazing television has become over the past two decades.
STARZ named Albrecht as its new CEO in 2010 to lead the charge in dedicating at least 90 minutes of its weekly programming to original content. During his tenure as CEO, Albrecht oversaw the total revitalization of STARZ, made it a viable competitor in the home entertainment market, and approved highly successful and eclectic original content such as Power, Counterpart, The White Princess, American Gods, Spartacus, Black Sails, and yes, Outlander.
Why should Outlander fans care what happens to Albrecht?
Albrecht’s push for Outlander was one of his first major decisions at STARZ. While the show was going to be in the care of a massively talented showrunner in Ron D. Moore, it was incredibly expensive and STARZ had to partner with SONY to make it happen. So it was a gargantuan risk. But, Albrecht knew that risk could finally give STARZ the credibility it needed to compete with the big boys like HBO and Showtime.
As we learned in our interview of Outlander Executive Producer Maril Davis, gaining the rights to Outlander was an arduous process, and pitching it to networks was complicated because Outlander is a story that can be neither defined nor categorized easily. Davis noted that when Outlander was pitched at STARZ, Albrecht was immediately on board, given his uncanny ability to translate any entertaining story to an application on television.
Of all the network execs Moore and Davis pitched, Albrecht was the only person who insisted on reading the ENTIRE book series, and also demanded the TV adaptation NOT change the narrative from the books in any significant fashion. Albrecht, like Moore, staked his reputation, and his company’s reputation, on the success of Outlander.
In essence, you can thank Outlander’s current form to Chris Albrecht. Without Albrecht as its champion, Outlander the series would have either not been produced, or it could have looked very different from how we know it today.
In all reality, STARZ as a network also would be completely unrecognizable.
How do Albrecht, STARZ and LIONSGATE fit together?
STARZ was an independent company until 2016 when it was purchased by Lionsgate, an entertainment company that specializes in producing films and television series. You probably know many of Lionsgate’s productions, including zeitgest properties such as The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games series, La La Land and Orange is the New Black.
For context, here’s the basic framework any Outlander fan needs to know about the relationship between Lionsgate and STARZ:
Lionsgate had a catalog of over 13,000 movies and TV shows that it owned, but it didn’t have an actual place to showcase them on a consistent basis. So the company purchased STARZ, which had developed its own on-demand app, had a broad archive of films and original content, and a loyal viewership of over 25 million subscribers who ravenously consumed original content like Outlander. Once fully merged, Lionsgate/STARZ had over 15,000 titles under its control, which transformed it into one of the largest independent entertainment companies in the world.
The true benefit for Lionsgate, however, is that it acquired the STARZ infrastructure — platform, as well as technology — that it needed to steadily showcase its content. STARZ profited because it took cash to invest in more original content, grow the company, and compete with not only the likes of HBO and Showtime, but even Netflix and Amazon.
It also worked on a personal level because Albrecht still retained executive control over STARZ and only had to answer one guy: Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.
The relationship between the CEOs seemed to perform swimmingly. That is, until the first fiscal quarter of 2018….
Fiscal woes, CEO drama, and how it all went wrong
This is essentially what happened: Lionsgate spent $4.4 BILLION dollars in cash and stock to acquire STARZ. While the triumphs of The Hunger Games and Twilight gave Lionsgate the ability to buy STARZ at that price, Lionsgate has since struggled to match the huge numbers it generated when it produced those wildly popular franchises.
As a result of Lionsgate’s newest films not being as popular, or being downright flops like its latest iteration of Robin Hood, the gobs of money stopped flowing and by late 2018 Lionsgate started posting millions of dollars worth of losses each quarter. In response, investors panicked, its stock tanked, and the company was forced to lay off a bunch of employees. Meanwhile STARZ was one of its few subsidiaries to post a profit.
You would think this profit would be a cause for celebration because Albrecht and STARZ essentially kept Lionsgate afloat. But that fiscal tension led to some infighting, different visions on how to proceed forward, and the situation started to get ugly between the two CEOs at Lionsgate/STARZ.
The REAL reason Albrecht is out
THR reports that Feltheimer and Albrecht were at loggerheads for most of their two-year marriage mainly because “Feltheimer is believed to have been frustrated with Albrecht’s reluctance to cede precious few hours of original programming and realize the benefits of merging its production entities — or, at the very least, prioritizing Lionsgate fare (as he has STARZ productions) in a bid for increased ownership.” In other words, neither of them could agree how much they would share the broadcast space between original STARZ content and Lionsgate content. Instead of seeing each other as partners, Albrecht and Feltheimer began to view one another as competitors in an already inundated market where consumers could barely KEEP TRACK of all the scripted content on their televisions, never mind actually consume it.
So, keeping in mind all the in-house drama with Albrecht, the fact that 75% of Lionsgate’s total revenue came from STARZ, major box office losses, and the money it just spent to acquire STARZ, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer was staring down the barrel of a major fiscal conundrum: How could he balance Lionsgate’s budgetary woes, promote his own content, and keep growing STARZ to procure an even better return on his investment?
The first step was clear — he had to get rid of his biggest roadblock. So on February 1st 2019, Feltheimer issued STARZ CEO Chris Albrecht his walking papers a full two years ahead of when Albrecht’s contract expired. Thus, placing himself in line to take complete control of STARZ.
Why Outlander fans should worry about Albrecht’s departure
Albrecht’s departure signifies a shift in how STARZ/Lionsgate will likely do business in the future, as well as the early strokes of a much broader tapestry in the making. Traditional thinking is that Outlander is one of the more popular shows on STARZ, and it attracts more and more subscribers each year, helping STARZ have more subscribers than ever this past year. As we all know, more subscribers means more money. So if Outlander is raking in the life blood of pay networks — subscribers — and is even more successful at making the money Lionsgate so desperately needs, how could Outlander be canceled after season 6? That’s the sixty four thousand dollar question.
You see, Lionsgate isn’t concerned about acquiring MORE subscribers right now, as it is already taking in an exorbitant amount of revenue. Instead, their plans are to “streamline” and cut costs to maximize profit within the soon-to-be cost effective construct they already own. With that vision being the likely modus operandi for the near future, it’s safe to say that neither Outlander, nor, obviously, its champion in Chris Albrecht, are cost-efficient or cost-effective for many reasons.
Without Albrecht present to protect all the highly successful original content he approved, especially an expensive co-production period drama like Outlander, the likelihood of Outlander looking very different in terms of budget for seasons 5 and 6 is extremely high.
What will happen to Outlander AFTER season 6?
Feltheimer and Lionsgate COO Jeff Hirsch (who will run STARZ as CEO) now have complete control over STARZ, the one money-making entity Lionsgate owns, and are now fully in charge of how much funding/time will be doled out to each project. With this in mind, I think it is safe to say they will broadcast more Lionsgate-owned content and not much else. This bodes poorly for Outlander on many levels.
Outlander may be a successful IP that supplies millions of viewers, but Lionsgate doesn’t actually own it and therefore has to pay fees to keep it on its network. That’s right, Outlander is not owned by STARZ or Lionsgate. It’s actually owned by Sony Television. Sony produces Outlander along with Tall Ship Prods. (owned by Ron Moore and Maril Davis), and they license the show out to networks like STARZ to distribute the show to the U.S. and other territories.
Playing devil’s advocate here, why should Lionsgate pay fees to SONY and Tall Ships to produce a show it doesn’t own, and from which they don’t get all the revenue? The simple answer is: they won’t.
The old way of doing business — producers partnering with distribution companies and networks — is dying. Production companies are now making moves to cut out the middle man and distribute shows on their own networks to maximize the money to be made. So there is zero point zero chance of Outlander being renewed after season 6.
And this is where the crazy business relationships and the value of SOLELY OWNED IP proves to be the driving force behind the move to get rid of Albrecht…
Self producing shows, and Albrecht’s version of Outlander not being part of the plan
With Albrecht out of the picture, Lionsgate doesn’t have to answer to him about which Lionsgate-produced show will be featured on STARZ anymore. (*Note since the merger, the only LIONSGATE show Albrecht ever approved was a project from **Twilight** author Stephanie Meyer called The Rook. And guess how long it’s been in development? You got it, for two freaking years – AKA since the merger happened).
Lionsgate knows the REAL money to be made in this entertainment arena is producing a show that is owned only by Lionsgate. STARZ can now be a vehicle for only Lionsgate-owned/produced content rather than the other way around. They want to create their OWN shows, to play them on their OWN network, and maximize their profits to save their OWN entire company.
Feltheimer can now begin clearing the decks and move all Lionsgate properties into the STARZ fold at the detriment to all of Albrecht’s projects. In fact, it’s already happening. See Counterpart’s recent cancellation. Like Outlander, Counterpart is an expensive location sensitive drama that is neither owned by STARZ nor Lionsgate. But, unlike Outlander, Counterpart had a miniscule audience so it’s out. There’s no sense in keeping a show that you don’t own, is expensive, and doesn’t have a wide audience.
The good news is that since Outlander has already received a commitment to be renewed for seasons 5 and 6, and is also the proud owner of a vast viewership, it is in Lionsgate’s best interest to keep it in production albeit with a potentially reduced budget to keep its costs down. I suppose Lionsgate could cut ties with Outlander all together for season 6 since Outlander is already in production for season 5, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case.
If Lionsgate cut Outlander now or after season 5, it would run the risk of losing too many subscribers. Losing subscribers means losing profit, and if the company loses profit, then its balance sheet is all out of whack again. The balance sheet has to look profitable because Lionsgate’s value and cash flow has to remain high, so the company can look like an appealing asset.
Lionsgate and The Rose Theorem
Maneuvering to be as fiscally appealing as possible is what I like to call the Rose Theorem. Do you remember Titanic? Rose (Kate Winslett) was forced by her mother to appear like she had a ton of money to retain the attention of her rich suitor Cal (Billy Zane). Their whole marriage was predicated on this thin veil of “alternative facts.”
Lionsgate is effectively enacting The Rose Theorem and it’s why we’re seeing the company cut corporate redundancy like Albrecht, and invest in its own IP like The Rook because such moves improve its margins on the final profit and loss statement. And even though Outlander might be the fandom’s collective Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), Lionsgate will still damn it to the same fate — let go and blow its frozen whistle while Outlander sinks down to the icy depths of the Atlantic.
The more shows Lionsgate can own, produce, and distribute without any partnerships, the more money it will retain, the stock prices will go up and the company looks like a highly valuable asset. This is important to consider because in light of Lionsgate’s recent accounting struggles, Lionsgate appears to be positioning itself to be acquired by a more cash-rich company. So higher stock values means more total money in any acquisition.
Wait, what?! Acquisition?! Yep, remember that frozen whistle we were just talking about? Lionsgate is desperately looking for a lifeboat and this is where Apple could step in from stage left.
What the in the world does Apple have to do with any of this?
For the first time since the mid-nineties, Apple is faced with a creative, fiscal, and existential crossroads due to a fairly significant drop in sales, being too cash-rich (reportedly up to $285 BILLION dollars just sitting in its coffers), and not blazing new pathways of innovation as it once did under founder Steve Jobs, who shaped the very paradigm of technology we know today.
Forbes reports that as an alternative to developing new products, Current Apple CEO Tim Cook “is hoping to transition from being primarily about hardware to being primarily about software and services, and Apple has a significant financial reserve that should help it tide over.” One of those services Cook has commissioned is a brand new wing of Apple to start producing its own scripted content to compete in the home entertainment market. Apparently, Apple is spending up to 1 billion dollars on some very high quality talent, including a program from a showrunner with whom you are very familiar, Ronald D. Moore.
With a seemingly endless amount of resources at its disposal, including iTunes, Apple TV, and almost limitless access to people’s personal lives via the iPhone, some might think Apple wouldn’t need Lionsgate. But Apple does NOT have a viable channel on a television network, nor does it, oddly enough, have the tech for its own on-demand app or enough content to compete with other home market competitors.
In order to grow at the rate it needs to compete, Apple could “acquire a studio in order to deepen its relationships in Hollywood, access a deep library and secure a quality development pipeline,” reports Ben Weiss, CIO of 8th and Jackson Capital Management Group. Could Apple go big and buy something like Netflix for upwards of $40 billion? Sure.
But, not so fast says Weiss, because Apple has shown a history of “making smaller acquisitions, such as Beats, to acquire talent and intellectual property that it can leverage across its product and services platform.” Do you happen to know a smaller company with a platform to showcase its already huge library of content that could bolster Apple’s desire of making headway in the home entertainment market? Maybe a company that can’t seem to manage itself properly without the cashflow it needs, and is looking to offload? Sounds a lot like Lionsgate and STARZ to me.
Where do we go from here?
Here’s another bold prediction: When Apple (or another company looking to expand, perhaps Amazon or maybe even Netflix) buys Lionsgate, look for Ron Moore to be bought out of his partnership with SONY and enter into a production deal with Apple — with whom he just happens to be developing his own show as I write this. A move like that only makes sense because of his existing relationship with STARZ and, now, Apple so he can serve as a bridge between the two entities.
In the end, though, regardless of whether or not Apple buys Lionsgate, the future does not look bright for the likes of Outlander beyond season 6 or any show that is not owned by STARZ/Lionsgate for that matter. The company is beholden to the almighty dollar and just doesn’t have enough of their own to keep a show like Outlander going beyond its pre-established term. The irony of a company like Apple buying Lionsgate is that it could lead to more Ron Moore produced projects that we Outlander fans can enjoy.
It’s not fun to think about, but “there’s no turning back now, Sassenach.” So take pleasure in knowing that we have at least two more seasons of Jamie and Claire left.
What do you think the future of Outlander will be with STARZ CEO Chris Albrecht leaving? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis?
So, my short attention span lost track of the possibilities. Could Outlander continue for seasons 7+ via a Tall Ships partnership with others?
That’s what I was thinking after reading all of it, Karen! One thing’s for sure, when Outlander goes, I’m canceling my Starz subscription.
So will I! It’s the only reason I subscribe to Starz.
Same here ! The Movies they show on Stars are. VaCa ! Outlandish is why I watch \subscribe to Starz. B uhbyby if they go Chopchopy !!!
Yes, that’s certainly a possibiilty. But, remember, its not Tall Ships that owns the show. They help produce it. It’s SONY that owns the show. So if somebody wants to partner with Sony Television, then it could continue. BUT, also remember, that method of creating television (producers partnering with distributors etc.) is dying. People are getting away from that model because there isn’t as much money to be made.
I’m not sure I understand… Why couldn’t Sony/Ron take Outlander to Amazon Prime or NetFlix?
Yes, that’s certainly a possibiilty. But, remember, its not Tall Ships that owns the show. They help produce it. It’s SONY that owns the show. So if somebody wants to partner with Sony Television, then it could continue. BUT, also remember, that method of creating television (producers partnering with distributors etc.) is dying. People are getting away from that model because there isn’t as much money to be made.
No Outlander means no Starz for me. Will be dropped like a hot potato!
It doesn’t seem that Feltheimer has calculated those of us that will cancel… :o(
My feelings exactly!!!
My feelings exactly!!
I think I tend to agree with you. There is no way I am sticking around for ‘The Rook.” BUT, to be honest, I don’t think that they care all that much that we won’t keep STARZ. They already have upwards of 25 million subscribers. So let’s just say that every single Outlander fan dropped it (which they won’t) that’s only a drop of about a million and a half to two million people. Once they produce a new show, that can be easily reproduced. Especially when they greenlight “The Rook.” Do you know how many Stephanie Meyer fans there are — especially in the all important 18-30 demographic? It’s probably just as much, if not more, than Diana Gabaldon.
Well I think that is probably true to a certain point, Blake, however, I am a woman, and not much of a fan of Stephanie Meyer. I am, like 97-98% of the fans for Outlander, a fan of Sam Heughan. He is, without a doubt, HOT as hell! LOL *A-hem* I mean, a rather nice looking young man.
If Outlander goes, so do I. It’s the only reason I have Starz.
Now that Counterpart is gone, I think I would agree with you on this. Although, I do look forward to seeing The Spanish Princess. It seems very interesting.
To be honest, I didn’t think there would be life for Outlander after S6 anyway. The stars of the show will be more than ready to move on by that point I think.
Completely agree. When they got the red light for S5-6, I figured it would end there, and perhaps it should.
I agree. As much as I love looking at sam beautiful face and body maybe it should end at 6, because season 4 to me was the worst so far.
I agree. Not to mention ready to move on from the fandom insanity.
Well, I don’t think the stars have given us any indication they are ready to move on. Especially seeing that they just joined the show as Producers. If anything, that would seem to indicate they are more invested than ever.
I am encouraged that Sam and Caitriona are moving into co-producer roles. Season 4 suffered from too many writers and too little oversight, in my opinion. There were wonderful moments, but they lost focus on the reason the majority are watching to begin with and that is the Jamie and Claire storyline. I frankly did not tune in to see how Toni Graphia and Matthew Roberts thought Diana Gabaldon should have written the books. However, production value of the show is consistently top notch, the acting excellent from the two lead actors right down to the smallest role. And for all the talk of a focus on a strong woman lead, don’t think for a moment Caitriona Balfe is the big draw on the show. For many viewers, as Sam Heughan goes the show goes. Outlander has been consistently excellent. Decisions in the writers room that veer too far from the source material have been a cause for very vocal complaints this season. Outside of the author, no one knows these characters better than the people who have lived in the characters shoes for at least five years now. Is there any chance Tall Ships could buy the rights to the books from Sony Television, or is that just not something they could do?
Agreed. Sam and Cait becoming producers made me think that they wanted to continue making the show. It was like them showing support for the show even tho Lionsgate were being turds. They really do care about the fandom and tbh they have said from the start (I am paraphrasing) that they were with the show for as long as the show was on. I really was hoping that the show would continue til the end of the book series. I know it is a pipe dream but it would have been nice. IF Sony were to purchase STARZ that would solve everything.
Outlander is the only reason I pay for Starz!!!!
If they drop Outlander, I drop STARZ. Outlander is the only reason I got STARZ.
I don’t agree about the millions of Outlander fans. With the changes in the story Season 4 dropped to only 1.4 million fans and subscribers have since been cancelling. Without Albrect’s sole influence Starz has no longer remained true to the books as he intended.
I agree I was not happy with season 4 and not sure about the plots for 5 and 6 might get worse, so I think 6 should be the last because 4 was awful
Well, I agree that the ratings are probably not as high as we would all like them to be. BUT, they cannot afford to have that kind of loss when they are potentially prepping for an acquisition. That’s why they must keep 5 and 6 going.
I think we need to let Starz/Lionsgate know that if Outlander goes so goes a good chunk of their audience. I don’t watch anything else on Starz.
I only have Starz to watch Outlander! If it’s gone then so will I!
i don’t pretend to understand even one word about how these conglomerates work, but given the risks to the continuation of outlander because of all these pro’s and con’s, i so appreciate the availability of outlander dvd’s, keeping the series in fans’ possession to eternity! also, i don’t know how typical or atypical my experience may be, but if outlander stops being produced after season 6 starz and i will part company. i had never heard of starz before outlander, and i haven’t found any other starz offerings to my taste.
Maybe Albrecht wasn’t necessarily an advocate for the story of Outlander but saw what it could come to represent. Meaning he anticipated the rise in strong women-centered stories and saw Outlander/Claire fitting into that and serving an audience and movement. At the same time, he alienated the true love story by relegating Jamie to a secondary character. Will the audience stay for Claire saving the day each season?
That wasn’t Albrecht’s doing, that was Ron Moore and company’s doing.
Right, but Albrecht did approve it to be on STARZ. That’s a big deal. Without it, Outlander probably doesn’t get made. (Or the version that we know and love doesn’t get made )
This is a very salient thought. It’s no coincidence that when Albrecht approved Outlander for STARZ, that the rise of female empowerment on television began in earnest. That does not mean he was the progenitor of the movement ( I would probably credit JJ Abrams with that) but it does mean he probably saw it coming.
If they get rid of Outlander, I will cancel my subscription to STARZ! We only got it to watch Outlander. Liongate will be in a world of hurt due to how many people will cancel if Outlander is gone.
If the writing continues to be awful in season 5 and 6 it won’t matter if the show is cancelled after season 6. in fact many fans will likely say good riddance.
I think this is a tad harsh. Was the writing as good as, say, season 1? Perhaps not. But I don’t think fans will ever say “good riddance.” People love Outlander no matter what – and I think that’s a fair thing to expect out of this fandom.
There is absolutely no reason to stay with Starz for me if they drop Outlander!! Although there are other shows I do watch on Starz, in this case it is the principle of the matter. This show alone has been a primary reason for the higher subscription rate for Starz and they seriously need to take that into consideration!
I think your sentiments are reasonable. BUT, Outlander is not necessarily the reason for the higher subscription rates. Does it help? Absolutely. But it’s not the most popular show even on it’s own network. That title belongs to POWER. Power almost exceeds Outlander by about 50%
I love Outlander and have been watching since the beginning. I have attended a con in NYC that Sam and Cait raised funds for. I also traveled to Scotland last year to see Outlander sights. If Outlander is dropped it would be a big mistake. All of the many fans would drop STARZ and money would be lost. Figure out another way to keep Outlander going past season 6. PLEASE!!!!!
Don’t cancel Outlander after season 6. Figure out a way to keep it going otherwise everyone will cancel STARZ. The profits will tumble and no one will be happy.
Wow ?? what an absolutely FASCINATING read ?? I hope & pray you’re wrong but you write a convincing argument about Outlander ending at S6(which would be better than at S7 mind you ?)
Fingers crossed 4 the Apple led scenario then with RDM as a bridge for getting us to S10.
Thank you! I hope I am wrong too. Honestly. But, the tea leaves here are just showing a different path. I will say though, if I can get more Ron Moore in my life, then I am a happy man.
For me the White Queen and the White Princess and soon the Spanish Princess are the only reason I have Starz. Since they have been filmed and shown my interest in all of the awesome production and actors kept me there. These were not re-run movies as are on other media such as HBO but originals. The writers are perfection as are the actors and action. It’s first class movie making. Sorry to say that if this type of production is not kept, Starz will be off of my TV and I will unsubscribe.
Do keep in mind The White Queen was a BBC production. WAAAYYYY better than the starz produced White Princess.
Outlander is the reason I have STARZ. If it goes, I go. I will cancel my subscription to STARZ if Outlander is stopped!
Sell Outlander to HBO or Showtime. Period.
This will absolutely never happen. First, HBO would have to want to buy it. The likelihood of them wanting to buy Outlander is very low considering that they have their own programming that has way better ratings. BUT, HBO is vastly more interested in it’s own content it produces anyway. Their upcoming slate of shows are incredible, and I don’t think they want a retread from STARZ.
If Outlander increases popularity with Sam Heughan & Caitrina Balfe influencing scripts & production, there is a chance the show could justify additional seasons. With Ron Moore taking interest in developing a new show, the concern is why did he shift to a new focus?
Outlander fans are in love with Jamie & Claire and seem less interested in the story about their extended family. I think the future of Outlander lies in how true to the books S5 & 6 productions are vs less focus on the love story of Jamie & Claire.
Having said that, fans seem more driven by the love story than the historical journey they take with the two of them. In addition fans want the TV version scripted from the books. That became clear during S4 when episodes deviated from the original story.
The writers, producers, actors & staff are now faced with not only keeping current Starz subscribers on board, they need to keep expenses in line and attempt to grow the audience base. A challenge I hope they can make happen.
I feel the series does its best to follow Gabaldon’s books, so some how somebody has to keep Outlander in production until the story is told in its entirety. I’ve heard Sam say he feels he owes staying with it to the end. Amazon, Netflix, here’s a chance to pick up a few million new subscribers if Starz flakes on us! Please!
I totally agree that the driving force for the show is Jamie and Claire. But I don’t think Sam and Cait’s ascending to the role of Producer is going to garner any more fans in an appreciable fashion. Usually around season 3 is when shows either skyrocket, or they stay the same in terms of viewership. So far, for Outlander at least, they have their fandom and the viewership they’re gonna have.
The thing is that the books start to be more about the extended family rather than Jamie and Claire. You have sub plots of Ian/Rachel, Willie/Jane, Bree/Roger (plus kids), Fergus/Marsali (plus kids), Jocasta/Duncan (Murtagh), LJG/Percy. I could go on but those are the main ones. The books focus less on Jamie and Clair the further into the series you go which means for those only interested in Jamie and Claire the series will become more and more unwatchable. Personally I appreciate the story showing the lives of the extended family as they are important to Jamie and Claire so become important to the reader. By the last book if you were to only try to follow Jamie and Claire’s story you would have to cut like 70 percent of the book. The ppl want the writers to follow the books but also complain when there isn’t as much of Jamie and Claire. Well going forward there will be less of them if they go by the books.
Sell a director’s cut with the deleted scenes I. The proper one place and make a ton of money!
Yup. Totally agree. I may enjoy what they left out more than what was included last season.
I understand the ‘drop Starz if they drop Outlander’ feeling, but likely in this scenario that would not be a voice. I wonder if Ron would ask for Outlander to come along as part of his negotiation. Maybe as a longer 1-3 part TV movie as a transition move to pull people over. Other than that, you’ve summed up a very logical path of events. This is a business where fan loyalties run hot but often fickle.
I love the idea of having Ron request that Outlander remain on the docket. But, Ron being bought out of his partnership (or at least that’s what I theorize) would complicate those negotiations. But it is a viable option that could happen – if Apple buys Lionsgate. I just don’t know the likelihood because there would be A LOT of moving parts in order to make that happen
A really good analysis. Just to clarify at a personal level, the Outlander series is the only reason I pony up the fee every month. If it goes, so do I. If it goes away altogether, so do I. If the product control goes to where the story isn’t respected, or to where it’s cheapened, major characters recast, Disney-fied in any way, I’m gone, never to return. Hope that puts a solid point on it.
Outlander viewership numbers are a drop in the bucket when compared to other shows like The Walking Dead and GOT. Both S3 and S4 were beaten in the 8pm time slot by a trashy, cheap-to-produce reality show called 90 Day Fiance. 90 Day also has a rabid fan base and is a solid hit in the 18-49 demographic, where Outlander has suffered. TLC is included in many basic cable packages and also has an App, plus on demand service. Finally, Outlander is truly a niche show. Viewership has grown very little over four seasons. A long Droughtlander after a lackluster season isn’t going to help. I am not in the business but I have a feeling that S5 and definitely S6 aren’t that sure a bet.
What you need to understand is that STARZ is still a small fish and a very large pond, full of much larger fish. Outlander didn’t “suffer” in competition with the shows you mention; in fact, even though same-day/live viewing went down, viewership on the STARZ app and other alternative platforms increased by huge margins, as evidenced by the increase in subscriptions.
HBO has 8 million subscribers vs STARZ’s paltry three million — up from 2 million in the last year. So STARZ’s shows are naturally going to have fewer viewers than The Walking Dead and GOT. Also: even though The Walking Dead still wins the ratings week after week, their overall viewership is going *down.* Not so with Outlander. And 90-Day Fiance is on TLC — a *free* channel. Outlander is on a boutique, subscribers-only channel. Apples and oranges.
I totally agree with you on your thoughts about the viewership. Outlander really is, despite our love of it, a really niche show. There’s only so much of an audience for it. Especially in light of how they have marketed it. Just because it’s a big deal in our lives, doesn’t mean it’s that big of a deal for the rest of the world. BUt I do think seasons 5 and 6 will get made. The viewership may be leaner than those zeitgest shows like GoT and, now to a lesser extent, The Walking Dead. But it’s still a solid audience that could keep it maintained through it’s original term
Hey – back in the early days, didn’t you also predict the show would not get more than 3 seasons? Yeah.
Yup. But I was also the one that predicted Ron Moore stepping back from being the showrunner, Matt Roberts ascending to Showrunner, and Terry Dresbach retiring. So, yeah.
The ONLY reason I PAY for and watch STARZ is because of Outlander. I WILL not continue to use STARZ when there are other avenues for entertainment. #Outlander #STARZ #lionsgate will go under if they lose their Outlander fans.
I found this article to be extremely interesting with its descriptions of corporate balance sheets and executive in-fighting. Right now, season 5 & 6 should be less expensive to film because Claire and Jamie pretty much stay in the same place – Fraser’s Ridge. So locations, sets, and costumes could easily be reused. There are no massive battle scenes – just one or two smaller skirmishes. Season 7 changes locations again, so cancellation could happen then. Starz is part of my cable package, so I will not save any money by cancelling it.
Thank you very much! I know it’s a hard job to make corporate infighting and balance sheets an exciting topic to read. So I am happy to know that you were able to get through it. I hope they are able to keep the costs right to the point where they need them to be. Here’s to a successful two more years 🙂
I only have Starz because of Outlander! Will cancel if Outlander is cancelled.
I also only have Starz for Outlander. If Outlander goes so do I as far as subscribing to Starz.
Interesting and logical. I have been worried about getting a full season 6 and think they may reduce the episodes once they see how much retained interest during the airing of season 5. I guess we will see. Outlander is not their top show, that belongs to Power by a big difference as well. As lovely as it is that Sam and Cait are given producers credits, fans who think they are going to “save” the show need to be more realistic on what their input will be. Just a thought – could maril Davis teasing about a Lord John series be more realistic than we think? Lionsgate could have bought the rights from Diana recently and plan to roll out after season 6.
I believe Outlander’s contract states 12 episodes apiece for seasons 5 and 6. I don’t think this will change.
I don’t think the Lord John tease was a serious option. I think it was just more of a fun ribbing between she and the audience.
I dont know about you, but outside of The Scottish Prisoner, I would have no interest in a Lord John spinoff. Boring!
It all comes down to greed. But they will be shooting them selves in the foot if the cancel Outlander as a good chunk of their subscribers only came onboard because of that show. Like them, I will drop Starz like a hot potato if they no longer have Outlander.
They need to take a good look at where their money is coming from.
I get my Outlander seasons through Amazon Prime thankfully so Starz can dissapear and it wouldnt bother me at all, Outlander now is a different kettle of fish it would break my heart if that happens I love the whole thing. I have not read the books as yuet so I cannot be dissapointed by the show not being exactly the same as the books.
And Amazon Prime gets Outlander through Starz. So, either way you will lose Outlander. Amazon Prime has nothing to do with it.
I think its pretty unanimous across the OUTLANDER fandom..if OUTLANDER gets cancelled, Starz will be dead in the water. Fans will leave and never return to the network..I’m certain I will be one of them.
I totally disagree with your analysis that Albreicht and Ron Moore stayed true to the heart and soul of the Outlander story. In my opinion, they have destroyed a magnificent saga and turned it into a story of the strong woman by diminishing the character of Jamie Fraser. The story, as written by Diana Gabaldon, is Jamie’s story, not Claires. It is Jamie Fraser that has the millions of fans. It is Sam Heughan’s portrayal of the iconic character that draws millions of fans. The show is so far removed from the Books as written that it is no longer recognizable. And many fans will not be back for Season 5 and not renew their subscription to Starz. And whose fault is this, Albrecht and Ron Moore. So I am glad to see him go. I would like to see Ron Moore and Tall Ships go. Lionsgate CEO has no love for Ron Moore. Lionsgate does like Sam Heughan. Maybe now the show will return to following the true story, the only way they will save the fan base. And Sony? There have been numerous rumors that they and Lionsgate have been courting. How will that effect Outlander. Sales of Sony DVD’s for the show continue to do well. Sony needs a partnership and an outlet as well.
Bravo Francesca! You hit the nail on the head! I paid for Starz in hope of watching the Diana Gabaldons beautiful narrative come to life!
What it’s devolved into is a muddled farce of 21st century pc rewrite. I was encouraged years ago when I read that Ron D Moore et al we’re big book fans. What a joke!
Bait and switch! Nobody’s fighting to tell Gabaldons story… RDM designing a calliope if writers for each episode who read Outlander for dummies to prep has finally taken its toll. Why on earth anyone would think Ron D Moore is a ‘bridge’ to success should have their head examined. He’ll leave before your ‘bridge’ is complete. It’s his method… his track record. 35 million book readers just waiting to watch Starz… readymade fans for a series. Starz, RDM, Tall Ships and Albrecht blew a wonderful opportunity.
Couldn’t agree more with you Francesca. I watch Outlander most of all for Jamie and Sam Heughan. I love everyone, but he is the heart and soul of the show for the depth of his portrayal of Jamie even though, from what I’ve read, his best work has often been cut. I don’t think Season 4 was the unmitigated disaster so many say it is. There were some outstanding episodes. Down the Rabbit Hole was not one of them. It was, IMO a real mess. I hope there is someone out there who loves the series for the right reasons as much as we do and will take it onboard. I only have Starz for Outlander and if OL goes, so do I. I love the show and the show brought me to the books, which I also love. I’m not a books purist, but Season 4 made some pretty bad mistakes. I have never understood the description of Claire as a “strong woman.” I find she frequently acts like an idiot and can be annoying. Sam OTOH pours himself into whatever they give him and never ever complains about what they eviscerate from his performance. Whatever happens to OL; I want huge future success for him.
Well, I appreciate your opinion. But it’s not my analysis. That’s what Maril Davis said. So I would tend to believe her.
I mostly agree with you, especially about Sam and the story being Jamie’s. But I would offer that Albrecht is really not involved in the day to day production. And Ron Moore started backing out in season 3 and has mostly handed off the operation to Matt. Unfortunately, I think this is why things have been going downhill. Season 2 was a fashion parade for Cait and pushing Claire forward at the expense of Jamie. Season 3 brought us a showcase of Sam’s talent, then butchered the reunion. I have less kind words for the second half. And were it not for Sam’s outstanding acting, season 4 would have been a complete disaster. So handing off to Matt was a costly error. He us out of his league. And Toni Graphia thinks she can write better than Diana! So…if somebody doesnt step in and correct the course, we may mot even get a season 6!
The only reason that I have subscribed to STARZ is because of the new project programming. If that is because of Chris Albrecht, then I think it was a huge mistake to cut him loose. I was very sorry to see Black Sails cut. Now if Outlander is cut, I will definitely not be a subscriber to STARZ. I will not pay the fee to watch 5 – 25+ year old movies over and over! The only thing STARZ had going for it was the new programming. I get so frustrated that I only subscribe to STARZ during the airing of Outlander and new programming anyway. I can watch all of those old movies on the other channels I already receive with my cable subscription. I certainly won’t pay for a “premium” channel to watch them again! I understand the need for Lionsgate to make money, but if subscriber’s likes/wishes are going to be cast aside for the almighty buck then let’s just see how long they can last with their crappy old movie programming!
Plez don’t cancel outlander it’s brill just love storylines with Jamie and Claire and their family! There is 10 books needs to b that amount of series pretty please lol
Oh no, I love Outlander!
I have been hoping they could make it to season 10 (in some form) to tie things up.
Surely Sam and Caitriona could fit it into their schedules with what I imagine will be very busy careers by then. Perhaps Sam will also be Batman by that stage?!
I am in Australia (so we don’t have STARZ) and watch it on iTunes season pass. I have many friends who watch Outlander and would also love to see it continue. Only 6 seasons would be so disappointing.
Been following this Starz/Lionsgate/Sony thing for a while now and none of this surprises me. I would love to see Sony approach Netflix; I’d be very surprised if Starz continue with it after S6. Would Sam/Cait still want to do it by then? Or maybe spin-offs, Lord John has been mentioned and there’s plenty of original material by DG to go at there. I wonder if Sam and Cait’s new roles as producers (executive producers?) will affect any decisions. I watch via Amazon Prime, as do all UK viewers and others internationally, I think. Another possibility, Prime taking on the license? Also, I don’t like the sound of budget cuts in S5 and 6. More cgi, I guess, as there’ll be battle scenes coming up …..
It would b a damn shame for Outlandr to be cancelled ever. I am sure there are long term on trays that would be quite costly for Lionsgate to absorb.
If STARZ drops Outlander, I see no reason why other services wouldn’t partner with Sony to keep it in production, if the series is still popular and profitable. Outlander is broadcast on many different services around the world, not just STARZ. Popular, profitable productions are not a dime a dozen. I could definitely see Amazon and Netflix going for it. The larger issue would likely be if the actors were up for it. I imagine they would be due quite a pay raise by then… and by the way, I personally think this was my favorite season since season 1. There are always going to be some people who are very vocal about disliking things, but all my friends liked the direction things went this season.
No Outlander, bye bye Starz
Let me be very clear about this…
If STARZ cancels OUTLANDER….
I cancel STARZ….
My understanding is Outlander can continue with another provider on another Network. I will also be canceling Starz if they stop Outlander after season 6!!
I agree, however, that because there are several variables in this process, it is difficult to believe what can actually occur. The one that we like Outlander (a series optimum and really different) is the hope that everything is solved and that we can continue following the saga Cleire and Jamie. Of course, the results of seasons 5 and 6 will be fundamental to the continuation of the series. Hopefully the producers and directors will be inspired in these two seasons, just as they are in the rest, especially in Season 1.
There is nothing to prevent all of we Outlander fans who subscribe to STARZ to let the powers that be know that no Outlander, no us. Perhaps they will have second thoughts if several hundred thousand fans sign and send a petition letting them know that we are gone if Outlander goes. There is nothing else worth watching anyway, except the same old tired movies, repeated endlessly that have been on the go for the last ten years or so.
No Outlander, no Starz. It’s a shame. Diana Galbaldon has so many more books that can be developed into TV. People will surely miss out especially the people who don’t read the books.
I just read that Sam and Cait will be producing the full season in season 5. That should help!
Well covered, though darn depressing. I felt a bit like I was going through a maze (albeit with a good guide), and continually came up against brick walls. I thought for sure the Apple/Ron Moore part in all of this would be the saving grace. I still think it could be, though it will depend heavily on Ron Moore and how much he wants to keep Outlander going. I’m still hoping Albrecht/Sony could acquire the show and bring it with him wherever he goes from here.
My take on this is calling all Outlander fans for a boycott of all STARZ and Lionsgate if they don’t continue to show Outlander until it is finished. Until the show decides it is finished, not STARZ/Lionsgate. STARZ is just an added expense I have because of Outlander. No Outlander, no STARZ. And, there are plenty of other movies out there besides Lionsgate. It might be tough in the beginning, but it can be done. And, THEY don’t need to doubt that for a minute.
The only reason I have Starz if for Outlander. I will renegotiate my package deal to cut out Starz if they cancel Outlander. I have read these books over 10 times and never tire of the story Diana has weaved. I hope those in positions of power and decision making keep us in mind. If Outlander goes, so shall I. I don’t care what they put in its place nothing compares to Outlander and Diana Gabaldon’s characters. Ron Moore needs to do his due diligence to us fans and work his ass off to see this through to its rightful end. Please keep Outlander going or I will leave. That is a guarantee on my part.
Great article found it so interesting and makes complete sense. I think you are bang on the money.
Count me as another one that will cancel STARZ if Outlander is cancelled. Outlander is the only reason I have STARZ.
Fascinating! I cannot say if I agree or disagree with your conclusions as all this information is so new to me. I learned so much from reading this article. Time will tell whether or not you’re correct in your conclusions. Thank you very much for this very, very informative article. I must say, though, that although you refer to the current golden age of television as the “first golden age”, the very first golden age of Television took place in the 1950s. It is in reference to that era that the term originated.
You’ve given me quite a bit of foif for thought. I’ve enjoyed all the Outlander seasons, and loved some more than others. I hope Sony finds someone else to partner with. It’s maddening that’s such a popular show (it is popular and millions love the show despite all the grumbling) could actually see it’s demise not because it doesn’t make enough money but because the money it does make doesn’t all belong to one entity.
I wonder if a deal with apple would give way for Tallship producers to do the Lord John series? Whatever happens to Outlander down the road I have to to hope that fans will still be able to watch by whatever format it’s presented in.
Very interesting read.Ihave figured that season six would be the end for the series as that is when Sam and Caits contracts are up. Then Ron has changed his involvement in the production. With Albrecht being fired I think the future of Outlader is all but over now. Sam and Cait have taken a major risk in getting involved in production. But it could be a great education for their futures. I have gradkids in their 20s and they dont care for the show. Not enough action for them. Not into history is what I hear all the time from them. During the holidays I asked them to warch it with me. Out came the phones about half way through the hour. We made it through 2 episodes and they wanted to watch something else. None of my grands have Starz. Nor do any of my friends. I feel like I am on an island here that only I enjoy. I have found that my kids only like hard action and sitcoms. Netflix is loaded with all that and my whole family has Netflix. So be prepared Outlander fans I think our days are numbered unless someone creates a miracle…..
Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe signed for seven seasons, not seven years.
other stations are holding their breath hoping STARZ will make this monumental error and drop Outlander so they can grab it up!! This series is beyond great world wide. Very few have ever had the fan base OL has.
Thanks for the clear picture of who owns what, how acquisitions and the challenge faced by new ownership affect choices already made and in place.
One factor that is seldom talked about is that Gabaldon’s first book began with a strong independent premise that generated tension and suspense as we wound our way toward the Battle of Culloden Moor and the drastic consequences that would follow. The plot had places to go and bases to touch along the way. By the end of the second book, the original premise had run its course, and we stayed with the series to read what happens next to Claire and Jamie. In my opinion that isn’t what we got. Instead we got Diana Gabaldon’s digressions into one rabbit hole after another and lasting for maybe 50 pages without furthering plot or character development. Subsequent books were allowed to wander in directions that led us away from following Claire and Jamie. We would buy them anyway, right?
For me the low point was the Carribean segment of the journey. I would have quit then if Season 4 hadn’t piqued my interest with Bri and Roger and the re-entry of Murtagh into the story. These improvements worked only because Matt Roberts, Toni Graphia and the rest of the creative team had to change course when their source material did not connect with the central story or move it forward as dramatic entertainment.
We shall see how corporate politics collide with our favorite show. I’m just grateful for all the Outlander team has gotten right so far.
No more Outlander… then no reason too keep Starzs for us then nor any of our Family!
I hate when this happy!!!
They always have too ruin a good thing!!!
Well if they Ever decide to cancel Outlander, I am unsubscribing as fast as I can…… I know a large community of others that will do the same thing!!! The only reason I pay for Starz is to watch Outlander and only Outlander. I would pay double or triple the cost a month to watch this show….
If they cancel this show, Sony better keep it alive and pop it up on another network or something. Have it get it picked up!!!! Outlander is the best show on television! If Starz drops the show, they are making the worst mistake they possibly could.
Blake, very interesting piece! Thank you. Do you list your sources at all?
Hello Blake! I wanted to thank you for this excellent piece. Great getting a better understanding of how things can work in the industry, which I was not that familiar with. I live in South America, Bolivia, and am unable to be a Starz subscriber. Our main source here for watching Outlander is Netflix (although currently it only has the first 3 seasons of the show and doubt it will get the 4th until next year. I think some other countries can get it through Amazon Prime…my question is this, would there be any possibility of either of those buying Outlander from Sony? Or, if not interested in buying, couldn’t Sony and Tall Ships lease it out to one of them, and cutt loose the connection with Lionsgate/Starz altogether? Or perhaps, Apple might be interesting in leasing it, especially given the new connection they have with Ron?
Does Lions Gate not understand utts the Outlander Fans that keep Starz afloat. And drives their viewership. Its the goodt that layus tyhe golden eggs. I was looking fotrward to see all the books produced. This news had totally depressed me.?
Blake, my goodness. First of all thanks for your great reporting here. While it makes me sick to my stomach, its good intel for sure. My question is, why would a company like Lions Gate walk away from a wildly successful show adaptation with tons of source material for future development and a loyal, respectably sized fan base? It ain’t GOT, but a more loyal base of fans to anchor a show you will never find. And lets face it Lions Gate, Starz aint HBO. You’ve got something here!! I myself have coverted many a Power fan to Outlander, mostly due to the bold and groundbreaking seasons 1 and 2. But you get my point. The gritty authenticity, stellar cast, senseous love scenes and facinating period hisory is a feast for the senses. Who doesn’t want a heavy and I mean HEAVY dose of Sam Hughen and Caitriona Bale every week.
They could create more fans by simply giving us more of THAT. Which they are starting to veer away from. How bout
Tony and Matt doing the GOT thing and give us more of what we want. In GOT it dragons and Kaleeesi, in Outlander its Jamie and Clair, Period. There’s plenty in the books to MINE. But cutting budget aint the way to go, watch fans start to drop like dead flies if you try it. The fans are too smart to hang around for that. I’m watching nothing on Starz other than Outlander and the shows based on the Philippa Gregory Books. Which someone pointed out was produced by the BBC. Ughhh, This is so disturbing. Starz is gone if there is no Outlander. I control the cable budget in this house and, well my husband can learn to live without Power. U gotta believe the pencil pushers at Lions Gate are smarter than this. Makes me so angry and upset to hear I could be loosing my favorite show.