There’s been an increasing amount of anxiety in the Outlander fan community since the season two premiere on Starz. The show’s audience figures are good, but there’s been no word of an order for a third season — which wouldn’t be worrying, except for Starz’s unique renewal practices. I talked about this on the latest episode of The Scot and the Sassenach, but so many dates can be hard to follow in an audio format, so I thought I’d write them down, and throw in a few more, just for fun.
Before we get to that, though, I want to clarify something important: Outlander deserves to be renewed, Outlander almost certainly will be renewed, and I’m not terribly worried about it. This list is an attempt to offer historical perspective and counterpoint, with an apples-to-apples look at the unique renewal strategy Starz practices when it comes to its original programming.
So, here’s how the dates break down for all of the Starz original drama series which ran for more than one season:
- Outlander was renewed immediately after the season one premiere. 1.01 aired on August 9th 2014, and season two was announced on August 15th 2014, six days later.
- Power was renewed after the season one premiere, then again after the season two premiere: 1.01 aired on June 7th 2014, and it was renewed on June 11th 2014; 2.01 aired on June 6th 2015, and it was renewed on June 10th 2015. In both cases, the renewal was announced four days after the season premiere.
- Survivor’s Remorse was renewed after the season one premiere (aired October 4th 2014, renewed October 10th 2014) and then again, unusually, after the second episode of season two (2.01 aired August 22nd 2015, 2.02 aired August 29th 2015, renewed September 2nd 2015).
- Ash Vs The Evil Dead was renewed three days before its season premiere (aired October 31st 2015, renewed October 28th 2015).
- Similarly, Black Sails has been renewed three times, each long before the season premiere for the preceding season had even aired (1.01 aired January 25th 2014, renewed July 26th 2013; 2.01 aired January 24th 2015, renewed October 11th 2014; 3.01 aired January 23rd 2016, renewed July 31st 2015).
- Da Vinci’s Demons was renewed after the premiere, then after the seventh episode of the second season — importantly, Starz later confirmed that the third season would be the last, and would be overseen by a different showrunner. 1.01 aired April 12th 2013, renewed April 17th 2013; 2.01 aired March 22nd 2014, renewed for a final season on May 6th 2014.
- Boss was renewed before its season one premiere, and cancelled only after the second season had finished airing (1.01 aired October 21st 2011, renewed September 27th 2011; 2.01 aired August 17th 2012, cancelled November 20th 2012).
- The same pattern was followed by Magic City (1.01 aired March 30th 2012, renewed March 20th 2012; 2.01 aired June 14th 2013, cancelled August 5th 2014).
- Spartacus had an unusual production cycle due to the tragic death of lead actor Andy Whitfield, but each of the three main seasons was renewed before the premiere of the previous season (1.01 aired September 21st 2010, renewed December 21st 2009; 2.01 aired September 13th 2012, renewed November 7th 2011; 3.01 aired September 3rd 2013, cancelled June 4th 2012).
- Crash was renewed for a second season after the first season had ended, but showrunner Glen Mazzara was replaced by Outlander writer Ira Steven Behr. The show was not renewed for a third season, due to low audience figures and the death of Dennis Hopper. 1.01 aired October 17th 2008, and it was renewed with new showrunner on February 24th 2009.
The pattern is inescapable. Starz generally renews early — oftentimes before the new season has even begun — or not at all. When renewal comes late in the day, it’s often accompanied by a change in showrunner (Crash), the announcement of a final season, or both (Da Vinci’s Demons). The only show that has been picked up after the season premiere without an announcement of a final season or a change in showrunner is Survivor’s Remorse, which was picked up five days after episode two.
That is why the people who are anxious about a renewal notice for Outlander are nervous, but it isn’t definitive proof that Outlander is in trouble — the television industry is enormously complicated at the best of times, and when we consider Starz’s subscription model, recent shift into new distribution platforms, the logistics of shooting the third season, the possible negotiations over a two-season deal to cover seasons three and four, the enormous marketing budget for the Outlander season two premiere, and the high-profile addition of American Gods to the Starz slate, there could be dozens of good reasons why an announcement is being delayed.
And if you want to help Outlander‘s chances, the best way to do it is to watch, to spread the word, and to contribute to a positive and passionate fan community. It’s a great show with a lot of story left to tell, and with good luck and a strong response from its audience, it’ll be around for years to come!
Edited to add: And as of June 1st, 2016, Outlander has been renewed for two additional seasons, with no word about a series finale or a change in showrunner. Trust Outlander to do the unexpected!