As someone who has covered television shows for a few years, I am not as worried as others by a move from Saturday to Sunday as announced today by The LA Times. These are based on my own observations of the industry and I welcome any evidence or arguments to the contrary:
1) Outlander has very loyal fans that have already adapted to change.
Season 1A aired in the summer of 2014, a season known for repeats on cable and broadcast or reality TV. Outlander S1B and 2 aired in spring 2015 and spring 2016. Outlander fans already know that the show doesn’t have a firm schedule. We have already known to expect episodes as they’re announced and next season won’t be any different.
2) The move will increase viewers and press attention.
Saturday night according to Nielsen, even on cable, belongs mostly to reruns and sports. Regardless of the time of year, many original cable dramas air on Sunday nights. Moving to Sundays even with potential conflicts means casual viewers and the industry will have to pay more attention to Outlander.
3) Many loyal viewers don’t watch at the scheduled time anyway.
Fans who have scheduling conflicts due to work or other events use alternative ways to watch the show already. Early birds use the Starz app or Starz via Amazon Prime. Cable company’s On Demand, iTunes and DVR suit people who may watch either the next day or even later depending on their schedule. A Sunday move will result in the same behavior.
4) We can’t predict Outlander S3 schedule accurately right now.
Based on the cast’s previous interviews, they have been told that filming for S3 if green-lighted will begin in September 2016. Assuming production + post production takes at least 6-8 months (the average time in the industry, the earliest any episodes can realistically be aired is May 2017. This is assuming there aren’t any hold-ups including: cast/crew don’t take time off for other projects/family obligations, reshoots, production delays, trouble with location filming, etc.
Even if all of S3 is finished filming, Starz can easily decide to move airing to a later date for any number of reasons. In addition, they may decide to split S3 into two halves given the extremely complicated nature of Voyager’s timeline. If adapted faithfully, S3 is going to require even more location shoots than S2. Chances are very high that this hiatus will be long enough that some of the current Sunday night competition won’t be in existence by the time Outlander S3 airs.
5) The only scheduling conflicts that matter are shows actually aimed at Outlander’s exact demographic.
Outlander based on my observations is aimed towards women 30+. I’m actually a few years younger than this demo, but that’s another story. Some of the potential conflicts I’ve seen being raised aren’t as big as people would think they are. First of all, the move to Sunday may also change the time slot. 9pm EST may shift up or down. Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are both aimed at anyone 18-49, even assuming they would be airing at the exact same time as Outlander. Both of these shows are more high fantasy and horror than a period romance drama. There may be some overlap in viewership, but I believe many people in Outlander’s core fan base don’t watch either show. In terms of conflicts with major sports games, most people watching Outlander weren’t going to watch whatever big game is on anyway.
The only possible conflict Starz may need to worry about isn’t even on cable. Many people in Outlander’s demographic are also loyal Masterpiece on PBS viewers. PBS actively targets women over 30 in their marketing. Downton Abbey is off the air for good. Poldark S2 is airing during Outlander’s hiatus later this fall. However, this doesn’t mean Poldark’s filming schedule for 2017 will line up as neatly.
The replacement for Downton Abbey, Victoria, will be airing in January 2017, also during Outlander’s hiatus. It’s impossible right now to figure out which new licenses or continuing series PBS will pick up from the BBC or ITV that will conflict with Outlander S3. The success of Mercy Street may pave the way for another original to PBS production or co-production which could also compete for ratings within Outlander’s demographic.
Overall, I believe the move to Sundays is too far ahead in time to accurately predict what will happen. We don’t have an Outlander S3 air date, and most of Sunday’s possible competition has no exact air date either.
I have faith that the core of the fandom will stick to whatever schedule Starz comes up with.
Who’s with me?