'Outlander' casts important role: How the show became a hit for Starz

Those behind the Starz TV show 'Outlander' have brought on actress Sophie Skelton in a pivotal part. The program, which debuted in 2014, has become an important part of cable network Starz's current success.

Ed Miller/Sony Pictures Television/AP
'Outlander' stars Sam Heughan (l.) and Caitriona Balfe (r.).

The Starz hit program “Outlander” has added another cast member, and book readers know that the actress will take on an important role.

Actress Sophie Skelton will join the cast for season 2, joining such cast members as Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. 

The Starz show centers on married World War II nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who travels through time to eighteenth-century Scotland and meets Scotsman Jamie Fraser (Heughan). 

So who is Skelton playing? (Spoilers follow…)

Skelton is taking on the role of Brianna Fraser, who readers of the book series by Diana Gabaldon on which “Outlander” is based know is Jamie and Claire’s daughter.

Why is Jamie and Claire’s daughter an adult? You’ll have to wait and see on that one.

The second season of the Golden Globe-nominated drama “Outlander” will return this April.

“Outlander” has proven to be a breakout hit for network Starz. In today’s television landscape where every cable network and streaming service seemingly wants an original hit, “Outlander” seems to be an important part of Starz’s current status as a player that can hold its own.

When the first season of the historical drama debuted in 2014 (the show split its first season between 2014 and 2015), “Outlander” drew the largest amount of multi-platform viewers in the network’s history, with the premiere of the show debuting on TV, online, and On Demand. 

Vulture writer Josef Adalian wrote last year that Starz is doing well and “Outlander” is crucial to that. 

“Outlander,’ the ambitious adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s epic fantasy-adventure novels, has attracted similarly strong Nielsen numbers [as Starz show ‘Power’], as well as a vocal online fandom,” Mr. Adalian wrote. “…Starz finally seems to have found its groove.” 

Deadline writer Dominic Patten noted that the show also helped draw viewers to Starz that hadn't been there before.

"A success for Starz from its August 9 premiere last year, 'Outlander' has proved a vital part of the cabler’s rebranding[,] attracting female viewers to the previously predominantly male inclined Starz," Mr. Patten wrote last year.

“Outlander” has attracted critical attention as well, with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association bestowing on it such high-profile Golden Globes nominations as best TV drama series, best actress in a drama series for Ms. Balfe, and best supporting actor for Tobias Menzies.

If “Outlander” is a crucial part of Starz’s current success, what other shows have proven to be hits that put their cable network or streaming service on the map? 

Cable network AMC hit it big almost as soon as it ventured into original scripted programming. The TV show “Mad Men” was the network’s first scripted drama show and is now called one of the greatest TV shows of all time. 

Similarly, Netflix’s “House of Cards,” which came to the service early in Netflix’s foray into original programming, became a big hit quickly.

For others, multiple programs helped bring networks or streaming services to viewers’ attention. Programs on HBO like “The Larry Sanders Show” helped with the cable network’s growing prominence before its popularity exploded in the late 1990s with shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” 

Similarly, Showtime aired a few original programs around the same time that all drew interest, including “Dexter” and “Weeds.” 

So what happens after these networks or services bring on a hit? Of course, they have to sustain the success. And in the current TV world, nothing is more true than that there’s always something new, as more and more original offerings from TV networks and streaming services arrive, fighting for viewers’ attention. 

But one hit show can make a network or service's name in a way that would have been difficult to believe even 10 years ago. As they produce hits, cable networks and streaming services that viewers may not even have heard of now will no doubt keep coming to TV fans’ attention.

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