Although Starz didn't panel the time-spanning romance "Outlander" at Friday's (July 11) Television Critics Association press tour panel, the Diana Gabaldon still featured heavily in the network's announcements. 

The first piece of news for those demanding instant, or near-instant, gratification: "Outlander" will be available a week earlier than the scheduled August 9 premiere. Starting on August 2, the appropriately named "Sassenach" 

The premiere will be available the Starz website, the Starz ap, the Starz YouTube page, the Starz Facebook page and the Starz Play app, as well as OnDemand. 

"We've heard from fans the world over who are anxiously awaiting to see how we’ve brought Claire and Jamie to life in what may possibly be the most highly anticipated series in Starz history," blurbs Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. “Our 'Outlander' sampling strategy serves the dual purpose of giving early access to the series premiere for those fans thirsting to watch it as soon as possible, as well as providing a vehicle that introduces the Starz experience to prospective new subscribers who are eager to learn all about this great new series."

Stars will also be goading the passionate "Outlander" fan community through the newly launched OutlanderCommunity.com.

So that's the good news for "Outlander" fans.

Want the slightly tempered news? Starz will be giving "Outlander" the AMC/USA/TNT treatment and splitting the 16-episode first season into two chunks, separated by a long hiatus. 

"Outlander" will officially premiere on Saturday, August 9 and the first eight episodes will run through September 27. Then "Outlander" will vanish until early 2015, when the second half premieres.

It's possible/likely/inevitable that by the time that second half premieres, fans will already know if "Outlander" has been renewed for a second season, which Albrecht told reporters was likely, assuming that audiences tune in. 

Many of my critical colleagues have already received screeners for the first two episodes and watched them. I have not, because Starz sent my screeners to my office. But soon... Soon!

"Outlander" may not have had a TCA panel (we had one in January, before we'd seen a second of footage), but it will have a big presence down at Comic-Con in San Diego. The drama will have its panel on Friday, July 25 at 2:15 in Room 6A, a room that could prove to be entirely unequipped for the the potential crowd. "Outlander" will also have a red carpet premiere that evening at the Spreckels Theater in San Diego.

Excited about the sneak preview? Ticked off about the season splitting?