How STARZ Became a Formidable Player in Cable!

For much of its two-decade existence, Starz has been seen as something of an afterthought among premium cable networks: If HBO and Showtime were Hertz and Avis, it was the Enterprise Rent-A-Car of the space. But that dynamic might finally be starting to change. At the end of last year, Starz (just barely) supplanted Showtime as the second-biggest pay-cable channel in terms of subscribers, pulling ahead of its longtime rival for the first time in eight years. More important, 2014 saw the successful launch of three new dramas, all of which seem headed for long lives. Stylized soap Power has become a ratings phenomenon for the network, tripling its audience over the course of its first dozen episodes. Outlander, the ambitious adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s epic fantasy-adventure novels, has attracted similarly strong Nielsen numbers, as well as a vocal online fandom and a slew of think pieces tied to its feminist twists on the action genre. And while it doesn’t generate as much media buzz, pirate epic Black Sails has also built a loyal following and will return for a third season. After years of struggling to define itself, Starz finally seems to have found its groove — and it’s done so by ditching the usual playbook for pay-cable success.

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