Outlander season 3 and the case for two-episode premiere, finale

two-episode premiereOver the course of the past couple of years, the two-episode premiere has become more of a thing. Whether you look at a show like The Last Ship, Fear the Walking Dead, or often American airings of British series like Downton Abbey, we’ve seen networks look at this as a way to get a lot of content out there at once and really get people hooked in on a show right away.

Now, the time feels right to beg the same question with OutlanderIs this something that Starz should consider here? They’ve never done it before with this show, but there is some logic to trying it: Two hours helps to offset the wait of a year and a half, There may be two episodes to start or end the season that work well together, or schedule-wise they may want the show off the air before it gets too deep into the holiday season.

If you’re one of the people out there who keeps track of the Starz schedule intently, then you’ll know that most fans have been circling Sunday, September 24 as the premiere date. That’s not confirmed, but based on the way that the network is airing repeats, that is the date that makes a lot of sense to many people. If that date sticks and the show airs a new episode a week, we would see season 3 conclude on Sunday, December 17. That’s not extremely late in the month, but we do know that some networks don’t love to air much in the way of new programming that late (as referenced). They don’t want to run the risk of having many of their shows completely overshadowed by the holidays — we don’t think that it would happen here with Outlander (more as to why later), but it’s worth some consideration.

If Starz were to ever air two episodes within a single week, we also think that it makes more sense to do it for the premiere than for the finale, given that the finales are often extended in their own right. After all, remember for a moment that the second-season finale of Outlander “Dragonfly in Amber” (otherwise known as our favorite episode of the series) was basically a feature film in terms of run time. That could happen again, and Starz wouldn’t want to add another hour to that most likely and turn Outlander into a 150-minute affair (not that we think fans would be upset by getting that much of the show in one night).

Should a two-episode premiere be considered?

Certainly, but we don’t think in the end that it will happen. If Outlander was airing on a TNT, an FX, or some other cable drama, we’d say that they should consider it to shorten the amount of time the season is airing in the holidays. The difference here is that those networks are live ratings-based, and they have to worry more about viewers off doing other things. Starz is subscriber-based, so even if viewers aren’t watching live in December, they will still make their subscriber dollars — that’s why it doesn’t have to worry about being overshadowed. So long as Outlander isn’t ending on Christmas Eve (which wouldn’t happen unless they take a week off somewhere along the way), there’s no need to double up.

Still, this is a worthy conversation, and one that we feel like most networks should have anytime they have a strong series with a passionate following. (Remember, all of our discussion is assuming the show launches September 24 — if it comes earlier, much of this is moot.)

Update: The premiere date is confirmed

As discussed here, Starz has made it official: Season 3 is coming September 10, earlier than many of us thought! That’s great news, but we do think that it renders some of these arguments moot. There’s no real scheduling benefit to Starz doubling up on episodes now, other than sating the hunger of many longtime fans.

Have any thoughts of your own on this debate? Be sure to sound off in the comments!

Also, head over to the link here for some other recent Outlander news, including some Sam Heughan Q&A highlights. (Photo: Starz.)

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