[WARNING: boring business article ahead]
To all of us Star Trek is a hobby (or to some a way of life), but to CBS and Paramount/Viacom Trek is a ‘brand’ and a ‘franchise.’ The good news is that Trek is again getting the notice of the higher ups. In a conference call with Wall Street where he announced a big jump in profits, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman talked up Paramount’s 2008 line-up with a shoutouts to J.J. Abrams and Star Trek…
…we feel very good about the breadth and depth of our 2008 movie slate. I’ll give you a few of the highlights. Paramount has the highly-anticipated, but adding to its mystique, still unnamed film by J.J. Abrams due out in the first quarter [Cloverfield] and we will have two summer tent poles, the latest Indiana Jones installment directed by Steven Spielberg, and Paramount’s release in association with Marvel Entertainment of Iron Man. We will also release Love Guru, a comedy starring Mike Myers, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt. Paramount will close out the year with Star Trek, a completely reconceived version of this franchise by, again, J.J. Abrams
Abrams wasn’t the only one getting the love. The summer hit Transformers written by Star Trek scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman was also highlighted by Dauman:
Paramount Motion Picture Group continued to deliver very strong results in third quarter, led by the huge success of the DreamWorks Paramount production of Transformers, which, after a decade in development, has emerged as a true global franchise with significant long-term value. Having earned more than $700 million at the global box office and helped to push Paramount into the number-one position in market share, Transformers‘ success is now extending to the home entertainment market.
As he has done so recently, Dauman spoke about his thoughts on the importance of franchises (like Trek and Transformers) to Paramount and Viacom:
Over time, we are evolving toward a diverse development model built on a solid foundation of our various brands and franchises. As we do this, we will be increasing the international distribution of our world-class filmed entertainment.
Dauman spoke often about the importance of global markets to Viacom and pointed to the success of Transformers as an example of how build global franchises. There can be no doubt that the bean counters and JJ Abrams are looking to ways of making Trek perform well both domestically and globally. In the past, Trek films have not performed well in non-English speaking countries (with the exception of Germany).
Ready for the strike
The Viacom Chief also spoke about the coming writers strike (which starts Monday). In response to a question about it, he noted that they were ready for it:
As far as the potential WGA strike is concerned, we feel we are very well positioned on an overall basis, starting with the studio. We, along with other studios, have obviously been preparing for the possibility of a strike. We have a good pipeline of movies that are already produced or in production, which will not be affected. In the long term, it depends how long the strike goes on.
Investors happy with Viacom and Paramount
This was all welcome news to investors and according to the New York Times “Analysts said the division looked well positioned to benefit from “Indiana Jones” and “Star Trek” releases in 2008. Viacom stock rose 2.9% yesterday on the news.
No Trek for CBS
Since splitting off from Viacom last year, CBS Corporation has been in charge of Trek on TV, including the library. In CBS’s analyst conference call (also held yesterday) the only mention of Trek was related to an explanation as to why syndicated revenue had dropped since last year (when Trek Remastered was sold into syndication). After decades of steady first run, syndication and DVD sales of new Trek content, CBS is headed into a Trek drought. Assuming Abrams and Paramount pull it off and make Trek big again…will CBS just sit by and watch?