Outlander rumor watch: Talking season 6, Starz’s shake-up, & the future

OutlanderWhat could be happening in regards to the long-term future of Outlander on Starz? This is a question that we’ve seen floated around a great deal as of late, even though season 5 has yet to film and beyond that, we already know that there is a season 6 down the pipeline.

Typically, a two-season renewal is the sort of news that inspires some confidence, but Outlander is also far from an ordinary show. It’s an ambitious adaptation of a book series that planned to span ten novels in full. From the very start, the hope for some fans was to see the show span the full length of Diana Gabaldon’s story about Jamie and Claire Fraser.

As for whether or not that happens, it’s really far too early to tell. We’re not even to the halfway point of a potential season 10 and it seems reckless to speculate that far down the road. As a matter of fact, it’s almost equally difficult to speculate for sure about season 6 being the final one when the writers won’t even be working on it for several more months.

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The reason for the concern about Outlander’s long-term future

It stems mostly from the departure of Starz’s previous CEO Chris Albrecht, one of the series’ biggest champions and the executive who many credit for helping to get the show off the ground. No doubt, this news isn’t great, especially when you start to get into the nitty-gritty of ownership and some of the shifting priorities at the network at large.

There has long been an interesting leadership structure within Starz and its parent company Lionsgate, which purchased the network more than a couple of years ago. Albrecht’s departure coincides with moves to further integrate the network into Lionsgate’s plans, with the remaining Starz leadership working alongside Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. Moving forward, there is probably going to be increased priority placed on putting in-house content on Starz — just as you would expect. Lionsgate productions are going to be more of a priority on a Lionsgate-owned network.

In-house ownership is becoming increasingly important for every corporation out there — Starz is far from the only one. It’s one of the reasons Timeless didn’t last over on NBC, and why Code Black met a premature end on CBS despite a reasonably-strong performance last summer. Networks profit more when they don’t have to share with external studios — as they do need to with Outlander.

Yet, remember this

Outlander means a whole lot more financially and in terms of notoriety to Starz than a show like Code Black ever did for CBS. A story from early 2018 via Deadline notes that Outlander was the “second most popular scripted series among female viewers” other than Game of Thrones — the report did not designate if that was for just premium cable or all of cable TV, but it’s an incredible bit of data nonetheless. This is a show with an enormous following in the United States and in other parts of the globe.

That same story also noted that Albrecht envisioned many more seasons for Outlander, beyond just a potential season 5 and 6. (Note that Starz hadn’t officially renewed the show beyond those two seasons just yet.) Here’s another quote from him about the series’ success, and the challenges they faced:

“There are ten books and the show’s going amazingly … I think our biggest problem will be making sure that we don’t kill Caitriona and Sam along the way, they are working so hard, especially Caitriona, she’s amazing. The two of them are fantastic and so deserving of the accolades that they’ve gotten. We have joined legion of fans for Outlander around the world and our partners at Sony and we are having very productive discussions around the future of the show.”

Is it possible that the new leadership could change priorities and augment the show’s future? Sure, but many of these executives were still around months ago when Albrecht was in charge. They know the show’s popularity and understand its value — not just in terms of revenue, but also brand equity. Outlander gives Starz a reputation for powerful storytelling featuring fantastic characters. Our belief is that it aids some of their other shows (including the upcoming The Spanish Princess) and will continue to air their other programming.

Yes, ownership does matter — but so does success. Look at Criminal Minds and The Big Bang Theory — these two shows have lasted more than a decade at CBS, a network with its own studio, and they’ve made it that far because they generate mountains of money. (Both are ending over the next year or so, but they’re ending – they weren’t canceled.) If your show is successful enough, ownership becomes less of a big deal.

What if the worst-case scenario happens?

If Starz does, for whatever reason, decide that season 6 of Outlander is it, the first order of business would be gauging whether or not the cast and crew wanted to continue. If they did, Sony could always shop the show elsewhere. An obvious contender would be Amazon, given programming head Jennifer Salke’s interest in getting more mainstream scripted entries on the service. Outlander already airs on Amazon in the UK and we know that there’s a good relationship already between Sony and the streaming service — they already own the US broadcast rights to Absentia, which airs on many Sony international affiliates.

For now, though, there’s no reason to fret about something so long down the road. The best thing to do instead is stay enthusiastic and hopeful that Outlander will be every bit the show that it’s been, and that more and more viewers eventually discover its greatness. So long as the show remains a pop-culture cornerstone and the talent want to keep going, there’s no reason for this epic love story to dissipate into the background.

For more speculation about Outlander season 5 and a premiere window…

Be sure to head over to the link here!

What do you think the long-term future could hold for Outlander? Be sure to share below. (Photo: Starz.)

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