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WATCH: Starz Lures Viewers, and Chases Subscribers, with Free Stream of Brit Time-Bender 'Outlander'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio | Thompson on Hollywood August 8, 2014 at 1:55PM

Premium cabler Starz's Brit-produced Diana Gabaldon adaptation "Outlander" is a sweeping epic fantasy that captured nearly a million viewers on VOD. You can watch the first episode now for free, but what happens next?

When do clicks equal subscriptions? Premium cabler Starz smartly debuted its new series, the Brit-produced Diana Gabaldon adaptation "Outlander," for free on streaming platforms. This sweeping epic fantasy about a WWII-era nurse thrust into 18th century, civil-war-torn Scotland has drawn nearly a million viewers since it premiered August 7 on YouTube, VOD and the channel's app and streaming services. (And, it's worth noting, a strong female audience.)

But while "Outlander," which kicks off its 16-episode first season this Saturday and is destined to be huge, fits comfortably into the literary-minded niche created by "Game of Thrones" and "Downtown Abbey," Starz lacks the subscriber base of, say, HBO (which recently admitted its own Netflix envy).

Series like "Outlander" and Steven Soderbergh's grim medical drama "The Knick" -- also premiering this weekend, on Cinemax, which is owned by HBO -- are living proof of why premium original programming is a lure to subscribe to these channels. If you're not a subscriber, how do you watch? Starz, which has become something of a costume drama haven, knows what it's doing and is making "Outlander" available on Amazon/iTunes.

But as for the "The Knick," if you don't have Cinemax, you're out of luck for the time being.

For now, watch the first episode of "Outlander," and read reviews, below.

This article is related to: Outlander, Starz, Television

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.