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Starz Plays it Smart With ‘Outlander’

Outlander premieres Aug. 9 on Starz. Credit; Starz.

Fans will have to wait just a bit longer for Outlander. In a press release issued this week, Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA  ) set Aug. 9 as the premiere date for its original sci-fi series adapted from author Diana Gabaldon's popular book series.

Investors should love this move for two reasons.

First, early August is a funny time for original TV programming. Networks haven't yet screened their big fall bets while July's big cable and streaming premieres will have faded. Outlander could reach those looking for new programming but who haven't read Gabaldon's novels.

Second, the premiere comes on the heels of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). You can bet that Starz brass, as well as the cast and executive producer Ron Moore, will be on hand to show off what they have and promote the show. Both The CW's Arrow and Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Agents of SHIELD benefited from strong buzz during last year's SDCC.

For Starz, the stakes are higher this year. Its other high-profile original -- pirate drama Black Sails -- has yet to break 1 million live U.S. viewers. Disappointing for a network that reported 21.9 million subscribers in the first quarter, up 1.4% year-over-year. Network revenue improved 3% over the same period. By contrast, AMC Networks (NASDAQ: AMCX  ) saw revenue grow 37% in the first quarter. HBO enjoyed a 9% revenue boost, including an 8% gain in subscription-related revenue.

So even if Starz is doing OK with what it has, the network isn't keeping pace with its larger peers. That won't change until the network convinces more viewers it has content they can't find anywhere else. Outlander is part of that effort.

Can it outperform Black Sails? That's tougher to tell. The show has about 130,000 fans on Facebook as of this writing. Another 437,000 have tuned in to the "first look" trailer since it went live in January. Surely we can trace a portion of that total to the 25 million copies Gabaldon has sold since publishing Outlander in 1991. Her latest title, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, arrives on June 10 -- just in time to help Starz promote the TV adaptation. Add it up, and I think Outlander has the ingredients to draw AMC or HBO-like numbers for an original series.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. How do you evaluate the prospects for Outlander? Watch the latest  trailer and then leave your take below, including whether you would buy, sell, or short Starz stock at current prices.

Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, lost in time and split between two loves. Sources: YouTube, Starz.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 30, 2014, at 1:44 AM, DupeyDubh wrote:

    Absolutely, buy Starz now. Outlander has production values and a storyline to rival Game of Thrones. In addition, Outlander has a fully-mobilized fan base ready to put unprecedented levels of social media support behind the series. Starz is a sure winner.

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Tim Beyers

Tim Beyers first began writing for the Fool in 2003. Today, he's an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Supernova. At, he covers disruptive ideas in technology and entertainment, though you'll most often find him writing and talking about the business of comics. Find him online at or send email to For more insights, follow Tim on Google+ and Twitter.

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