Why Outlander season 3 is airing at 8:00 p.m., earlier than expected

Outlander season 3One of the aspects of the Outlander season 3 premiere that has been under-covered, whether it be here or on other sites, is the new start time. For most of the spring and the summer (prior to the premiere date announcement) it was easy to assume that the series was going to be returning to Starz at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. This is when the bulk of their programming airs, and this is when the first two seasons of the show aired (even if they aired on Saturdays as opposed to Sundays).

However, when the announcement came out that the show was returning on September 10 (not much longer now!), there was a surprise: The new air time would be 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Obviously, those of you who watch via the app or On-Demand can watch whenever you want, but for viewers who just watch via TV, this is a significant shift. It’s hardly unheard of for Starz to air programming at this time, given that they did with The White Princess earlier this year. Nonetheless, it’s still notable in the context of one of their biggest hits, and a show that may be setting up to bring them their most-watched season premiere in history.

So why do this? Well, there are a few different reasons that this shift makes some sense.

Steering clear of The Walking Dead – Even though there is probably only a small audience who watches the two shows, it makes sense for Starz to not want to go up against one of the biggest scripted hits in television. It wouldn’t have done so until October, but the network also probably does not want to switch up the timeslot midseason. This earlier timeslot also keeps them from going up against Fear the Walking Dead, NCIS: Los Angeles, and most of the meat of HBO and Showtime’s fall lineup. It probably benefits American viewers who want to watch both this show and then Poldark at 9:00 p.m. on PBS starting October 1.

Steering clear of football – Technically, there is some NFL football on NBC that will air against the show, but for anyone out there who does watch those games Outlander will probably only run during part of the first quarter. You can watch Jamie and Claire, and then switch over to watch a bunch of grown men in helmets trying to tackle each other. This may also make TV negotiations easier for those of you who has a significant other who likes to watch these games. You get what you want, and then they get what they want.

Easier for early birds – If there are Outlander fans who are parents or simply have work early the next day, this timeslot probably works better for them since it offers them time to relax and get ready for bed afterwards.

An interesting ratings risk – While many cable shows do tend to fare better at 9:00 p.m. or later, this move may actually be Starz playing more towards a broadcast model. On network TV, the biggest hits are often the ones airing at 8:00. Take a look at The Big Bang Theory, Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy, or NCIS. These four shows have been among the most-popular programs of the last decade, and for quite some time now they’ve all finished up airing before 9:00. The largest audience for them, for one reason or another, is available at this time.

Do you like the earlier-than-expected Outlander season 3 timeslot? Share in the comments!

Meanwhile, be sure to click here if you do want to learn more regarding the upcoming plans for season 4. (Photo: Starz.)

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