Two years ago, Sony Pictures Television acquired the rights to Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling novel, Outlander, and tapped Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore to helm the TV adaptation of the multi-genre story. A year ago, Starz picked up the Outlander series and ordered a 16-episode first season, which recently premiered on the network, and a week prior online (check out our review of ‘Sassenach’).
Starz has seen success in the past with Spartacus, and more recently with Black Sails, but the network enjoyed record-breaking, multiplatform ratings when Outlander premiered. Despite the show’s newness, the response from fans of Gabaldon’s novel, casual viewers, and critics alike has been largely positive and led to Starz renewing Outlander for a second season.
Variety reported the premium cable network will be adapting Gabaldon’s second novel, Dragonfly in Amber, for Outlander’s sophomore season. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said the favorable response from viewers made the renewal decision “a very easy one” while Moore called the show’s success “incredibly gratifying” as it has been “a labor of love” for him. Outlander’s second season will run the same 16 episodes in length.
Dragonfly in Amber is the second of eight books in Gabaldon’s Outlander series published over the course of 23 years between 1991 and 2014. The books follow characters introduced in Outlander: Claire Beauchamp (played by Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).
In recent years, Starz has attempted to keep pace with the increasing viewerships of other premium cable networks. Although Outlander’s debut to 3.7 million multiplatform audience memebers isn’t comparable to HBO’s Game of Thrones -- which hit 18.4 million television viewers in season 4 -- the new series surpassed Black Sails’ 3.5 million multiplatform viewers for the pirate drama’s premiere. These ratings position Outlander as Starz’s best bet to compete with Game of Thrones.
Additionally, Starz has at least eight years of content to work with from Gabaldon’s novels, which allows Outlander more longevity -- at least in terms of source material -- than other series that have appeared on the network.
Whether Outlander will help Starz become real competition in terms of ratings for HBO or Showtime remains to be seen. But, if Starz and Moore focus on creating the best adapted television series possible, they’ll certainly please fans of the book series and casual viewers, perhaps growing their regular audience. However, all the speculation as to Outlander’s long-standing success is a bit premature since, currently, only one episode has premiered.
Outlander continues with ‘Castle Leoch’ Saturday @9pm on Starz.