Star Trek Helps Bring Big Profits To Viacom & Paramount

This morning Viacom (the parent of Paramount Pictures) released its fourth quarter and full year results for 2009 and the results are good, surpassing Wall Street estimates. And Star Trek is part of that success story, specifically being mentioned in the official Viacom corporate statement, as well as in the financial and industry press.


Star Trek helps Viacom comeback

In the corporate report for the quarter and the year, Star Trek is touted twice. Firstly in discussing the Q4 Revenues:

[Fourth quarter] worldwide home entertainment revenues of $1.15 billion represent a 12% increase over the prior year’s fourth quarter results and reflect the strong performance of the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Worldwide television license fees grew 27% to $445 million.

And when discussing the annual income:

Full Year 2009 adjusted operating income grew 1% to $3.0 billion versus $2.98 billion in 2008, reflecting a significant increase in profitability in the Filmed Entertainment segment primarily fueled by the success of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek and Paranormal Activity as well as the benefit of restructuring and other cost-containment initiatives. Filmed Entertainment operating income grew from $88 million in 2008 to $236 million in 2009.

The report also includes a statement from Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman that discusses how franchises like Star Trek fit into the corporate strategy:

Paramount Pictures significantly boosted its profitability in 2009 as the studio’s strategy of producing a smaller slate of films, anchored by franchises, began to pick up momentum. We also were pleased to see renewed consumer demand for our new DVD and Blu-ray releases in the fourth quarter.

The news of Viacoms surge in profitability has gone over well with the financial and industry press. Business Week has the headline "Viacom Profit Climbs on DVD Sales of ‘Star Trek’", The Wrap’s headline is "’Star Trek,’ ‘Transformers 2,’ ‘G.I. Joe’ Trigger Big Profits for Viacom.", and the Reuters subhead has "Viacom Inc’s profit surpassed expectations thanks to a round of cost-cutting and brisk sales of DVDs like “Star Trek” and “Transformers 2”"

It is good to see that Star Trek is once again a key asset for Paramount and Viacom.


CBS reports next week

While the Star Trek film library and rights to make feature films sits with Paramount, it is CBS Corporation that owns the Star Trek brand. CBS reports its annual results next week. Star Trek certainly made a contribution to CBS revenue in 2009 with books, some library DVD releases, ongoing TV series syndication, and licensing deals (toys, games, etc). Of course to make the big bucks, CBS would have bring Star Trek back to series television. There are still no indications if or when this will happen, but if Star Trek continues to pay off for Viacom, how long until CBS decides it wants to cash in on the new found value of their brand?

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So wait…. how much did Star Trek alone in dvd/blu-ray sales produce all-time (in profit terms) ?

Released on DVD: November 17, 2009
DVD Units Sold: 6,240,996
Consumer Spending: $92,241,656

All those profits yet they still won’t give decent quality to the packages that every other studio including a lot of unknown ones make.

I’ll bet it’s the TOS Blu-rays that are driving this… VERY Profitable!

@ Jeyl

I’m pretty sure Paramount packages the dvd/blu-rays the same way as other studios package them.

Regarding CBS….

I’d love if they start re-releasing TNG on blu-ray or dvd, in a cheaper package. The current DVD season’s are about 60 CAN… I don’t know how much its in the US, but its really expensive up here.

A question for Anthony or anyone else who knows the ins and outs of the Viacom/ CBS deal:

Speaking purely theoretically; if CBS were to commission a new Trek series do they have the rights to set it in the new timeline if they wanted to go in that direction? Or would they either have to set it in the prime timeline or negotiate a deal with Viacom/ Paramount/ Bad Robot etc for the rights to use that?

I think they’d have to do a deal with Viacom/Paramount/ Bad Robot but I’m not 100% on that. Also, again in theory, I presume Bob, Alex, JJ etc wouldn’t get a say in it either if CBS went ahead and commisioned a prime timeline show. Obviously they’d be consulted in some way but if CBS wanted to they could just do their own thing straight off the bat.

Bring Trek back to the small screen, I miss it! And nothing compares!

I would like to see a new Trek in the prime universe, a new ship, a new crew, back to exploration. Don’t worry about canon with the novel line, the game line, let’s get out and see the galaxy!

7. “I’m pretty sure Paramount packages the dvd/blu-rays the same way as other studios package them.”

Oh, really? Take a look at the original series season sets. You will find that each disc had artwork on it as well as a listing of which episodes are on the disc. The BluRay season sets are just gray colored discs with white/clear texts with only the disc number on them. No episode listings at all.


Sounds nice, but you you’ve got to have a story to tell first.

You need a solid premise, set of relationships, and line up of plots.

Trek has been done and done and done.

I am not interested in more time-travel, transporter/holodeck malfunctions, and almost-human misfits struggling with or against human identity. Without a solid game plan from the outset, it could get repetitive very quickly.

It may be best to give it a breather for a while.

I think it would be best to wait until after the movie sequel. If it does big business, then the franchise might be back on its feet enough to give another serious go – but not if it follows the pattern of umpteenth iterations of CSI and Law & Order.

I’m thrilled and appreciative that the new movie made Trek alive again by its success. I am concerned, however, if Trek is seen as a prime source of profit, that there will be too much pressure on it to be a commercial success again instead of being a quality Trek movie true to it’s nature. The first movie was good but in my opinion already to watered down for the masses..I wouldn’t want the second one to be even more so.

Does this mean i’ll be able to buy the other 25 seasons of star trek on blu-ray soon? You sell them i’ll buy them as long as its not like that crappy upscale trials and tribulations on the the season 2 box set.

“the studio’s strategy of producing a smaller slate of films, anchored by franchises”

Translation: same old, same old.

Man, I am so sick of sequels. Trek was about the only one in a long time that was actually good.

Ok C.B.S Bring Back Enterprise and set it on the time of the Romulan Wars. Bring in a new crew if you havt to. But That is what is needed.

“Star Trek” is a terrible fit for CBS. If CBS brings back the show, they’d probably shop it to another network (like their “Medium” was originally on NBC) and unless its an all-teen cast (“Starfleet Academy” again), it won’t work on The CW. I don’t see what’s in it for CBS, so I don’t see Trek on TV happening anytime soon.

CBS is almost entirely police procedurals, and they’re getting one more as “Hawaii Five-O” is a perfect fit for their line-up, so I’d say its a lock for a go-ahead. But where would you put “Star Trek” on CBS? It would be unlike everything else on the network, and CBS’s attempts at that (“Now and Again”, “Jericho”, “Moonlight”) are usually failures.

In a few years, it will be time to bring ST back to series television. The only question is, what kind of series should it be? What era? Which version of Kirk, if Kirk appears?

It’s never too early to start rumor-mongering.


I don’t expect anything to happen with Trek TV until after the next movie. If Star Trek 2012 is another blockbuster, then CBS will probably seriously consider a revival, which would debut in Fall 2013 at the earliest. By then, maybe the CSI/NCIS franchises will finally have burned themselves out and there will be room on CBS for a non-police procedural (of course, by then the CW and NBC might both be defunct.)

@ Jeyl

Do you ever have anything nice or positive to say? Just wondering.

I wish STar Trek the brand wasn’t owned by CBS.

Remastered woundn’t exist if it weren’t for CBS.

I wish they were still airing the re-mastered episodes.

This is awesome! When does the next TV series come out?

After looking at those numbers, my brain short-circuited! :-)

As for Star Trek returning to t.v, don’t count on it. At least not before the sequel. Television today is in a state of flux regarding viewership and advertising revenues. Most sci-fi on t.v only gets a fraction of what the CSI shows or Grey’s Anatomy gets. The highest rated sci-fi shows like Fringe only get between 6-8 million viewers per week. And FOX is considering pulling the plug on that show. Right now, the only shows that pull in the ratings and ad revenue are crime shows, talent shows,reality shows and NFL football. Sure, there are a lot of sci-fi shows on the air, but they are on networks that are struggling (The CW) or networks specializing in sci-fi (Sy-Fy). But even those shows struggle just to stay on the air. Then there is the ad revenue. Sponsors are becoming more selective as to what they are willing to pay the networks. CSI commands a lot of money because the sponsors are willing to pay big bucks because every new episode is guaranteed to be watched by 25 million+ viewers. Even a rerun of CSI gets twice the ratings over what a new episode of Fringe gets.
Even Jersey Shore gets huge ratings. Sponsors are becoming more selective because of the recession. A new Star Trek show would be extremely expensive and sponsors would balk at what CBS would have to demand to cover costs. When TNG was on the air, it got at least 15 million viewers per week, but was always up against the budget despite the ad revenue as well as the fact it was syndicated. A new Star Trek show will probably never come close to the numbers TNG got.
CBS would more likely want to put a new CSI or reality show on the air than risk an attempt with a cult franchise like Star Trek. Even an animated half hour show isn’t necccessarily a given. Apart from Star Wars:The Clone Wars, animated shows are becoming a niche product. Saturday morning cartoons have been replaced by sports, news programming and paid programming. It just doesn’t make economic sense to put a new Star Trek show on the air. The general audience would rather watch shows such as 16 And Pregnant, Jersey Shore, The Hills, CSI, and hot dog eating contests rather than checking out Star Trek. Peoples’ viewing habits have changed. Apart from the Trek fanbase and sci-fi fans, most people would prefer watching shows where they can just turn off their brains and enjoy others acting like jerks. Its the way it is now. It is a shame. That is why I hope CBS waits until the sequel comes out. If the sequel is a smash hit that makes more money than the 09 film did, and assuming the economic conditions have improved, then I think it could work. But now isn’t the time.

Well, back in the day — and this was before the end of Star Trek: Enterprise — when folks were asking about what should follow the then-current spate of Trek series, I proposed a Trek anthology series. The upshot was that this would be too expensive and you would have to spend big money each week on new sets, etc. This would be especially the case if one were to contemplate a new live-action, versus animated, Trek series.

With the perfect of CGI, cost issues might be less important, however.

A new live-action serial called: STAR TREK: TALES FROM THE FEDERATION, or some suchlike, might tell, in arc form, some of the other stories behind the major events of the Federation. They would be one-off stories that introduced new characters each week — some told from the standpoint of non-human characters. We could have a story told from the Andorian perspective, for example. We could have Gary Seven stories. The possibilities are endless. :-)

I sort of agree that we shouldn’t expect a new Trek TV series until after the next sequel, which is why I put the timeline at a few years from now. Say, 2013, provided that the world hasn’t yet ended. (Of course, admittedly, if it HAS ended by then, then the possibilties are somewhat diminished….)


Don’t be fooled.
Cgi still costs a lot of money. Money for talented artists. Money for the continuing need of upgrading software. And it is quite time consuming as well. A big chunk of the budget for “Star Trek” 09 went to cgi. “Fringe” is an expensive show to produce, mainly because of cgi. “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was too expensive for FOX to renew based on the ratings. If you want good cgi, then its going to cost a lot of money. “Avatar” cost at least $250 million, mostly due to the cgi. Alot of today’s blockbusters that have a lot of visual effects cost at least $150 million to make. When “Enterprise” was on the air, there was a reason ILM wasn’t the studio doing the visual effects. ILM was too expensive for Paramount. EdenFX did the cgi and while they did a decent job, their quality doesn’t compare to that of ILM or even Weta. Believe it or not, sets are cheaper to build than creating great quality cgi.

It may be a good idea for CBS Television Studios to produce a new ‘Star Trek’ TV series for CBS, whether it will be set in the post-Nemesis prime universe or the ‘Star Trek XI’-era alternate universe.

Please, not another TV Show. Let that rest for at least two decades before they dare to think of bringing another Trek show to the small screen.

#30 – Two Decades?!!! I will cease to exist. ;)

Isn’t it great that Trek is this big a deal again?

That said, as far as new incarnations go, I think there are some realities here that are being overlooked.

First, I don’t think you will *ever* see a Trek mainstream TV series again. Why? Expense, foremost, combined with changing television tastes. We know that Trek, in particular, is expensive to produce, and a weekly series could very quickly run the risk of putting Trek into the overexposed mode again. Entrenching viewers for what might be termed a conventional series is much more difficult these days than in years past, making that financial risk much greater. CBS/Paramount has proof in the numbers that they don’t need to invest in Trek TV to make $$ from the franchise.

Licensing the property is a much lower-risk way to leverage a franchise, incurring virtually zero cost. Paramount knows the *movie* version of Trek is now commercialy viable again, so licensing and big screen versions of the franchise are virtually certain to be the mainstream versions you’ll see for some time to come. And I still contend that Paramount is watiing too long for the next movie installment. Strike while the iron is white-hot, and it may never be this hot for Trek again.

I STILL don’t get when the remastered DVD and Bluray season sets for TOS were released WHY the newly produced IN HD weekly teaser trailers do NOT appear on these??????????????????????????????//
Why did we simply get the OLD, horrible -shape 1966-68 poor footage used for the orig. network airings??????????
What mind set opted to NOT incld these? It took time, effort and cash to produce these, why use only for syndicated onair viewing for a brief time and then jetison? WTF?

@33, I’m also interested in why the BR releases of the main TOS movies weren’t remastered. That was a source of a great deal of criticism from most places, IIRC. No interest here in the BluRay versions of the original movies unless they remaster them for the intended format, give them the treatment they deserve…

When (not if) Star Trek returns to series television, it will not be on CBS. That’s much too risky for the franchise. It would likely go to CBS-owned Showtime, where the financial model is much different than broadcast. Each ‘season’ would likely be 10-13 episodes. Anyone not wanting to pay for Showtime, or the inevitable download, would have to wait for the DVD release.

Either way, advertisers won’t be paying for a new series – we will. This is fine by me, because it will allow the show to be produced at a very high level.

Exactly! Do a limited episode run and get quality. Not more, nose appliance alien of the week, crew possed by aliens, same aliens in the rent-o-costume, styrofoam bolders and colored gels for skylines.
Trek needs an upgrade. Better stories and NEW concepts an ideas. Not the same formula plotlines recycled and thinly veiled as new.
Trek took risks, challenged current morals, poilitics, religon, idealogical norms and the mindset that felt war was an answer to anything.
Bring on board real scifi writers and pay them! Find budget conscious means to wrap their bold out there concepts into a workable script.
Trek on tv got lazy and dull. You can put a brand new suit and tie on a pig, but it’s still a pig…dressed up and nothing to say.

Where is a new Trek Animated show!!! I have long said that the likes of Frakes and Burton with a history of quality children’s programming could make this happen.

@36: I like the cut of your jib, sir.

The major networks, and television, in general, is suffering because of competition from the internet, video games, niche programming (such as the Discovery Channel) and dvd watching. I’m sure most people feel (as I do) that, even with hundreds of channels to choose from, there is still very little of interest to watch. Some of the top-rated shows, such as the crime dramas, or sitcoms, are not bad, and often attract regular followers. But as I have watched CSI, CSI: New York, CSI: Miami, for example, these shows become tedious, because as soon as I know what the problem is, I know what the solution will be. There is just a feeling of same-old, same-old, ho hummm. To bring Star Trek back into such an arena (pardon the pun) would amount to the same thing. I agree with those who say that when Trek returns to tv, it should be done in a limited way, so that it won’t become tired and stale, like everything else becomes. A Trek mini-series, or continuing Trek tv-movies, would be a much better way to go, allowing for bigger budgets, and greater audience anticipation. The usual Hollywood tv mentality has got to give way to a new model, at some point. The times, they are a-changin…. still.

Here’s my prediction: the next Trek movie makes another crapload of money, and after a great opening weekend, Paramount/CBS announces a new Trek show. It’ll be set in the Abramsverse, but with a new ship and crew, perhaps with a cross-over character or three that have been conveniently introduced in the second movie. Two or three of the new Trek ‘Supreme Court’ will exec-produce (gotta do something new when ‘Lost’ is off the air).

1) Ditches the ‘Prime’ universe, and opens up all of the storytelling possibilities of reinventing the TOS Kirk adventures that won’t be touched in the movies.
2) Makes it instantly attractive to all the new fans of NuTrek.
3) Sweeps = Cross-overs with Abrams’ Enterprise crew.
4) Story arcs can set up the third big-screen movie.
5) Set design and technology from the new movies already exist; easier to adapt to the TV screen than re-create a new time era.

Sound good? Paramount/CBS development, give me a call.

My vote goes to the limited episode idea – but…I’d love to see the Romulan War. I mean, that was the main reason I started watching Enterprise and why I liked “First Contact”…some pre-Kirk history. And, the actors from Enterprise aren’t ‘ancient’. I also agree with using Frakes and Burton – the best episodes on Enterprise were directed by Burton and Frakes did a great job on “First Contact”. Romulan War could satisfy the original timeline trek fans plus the new AU movie fans.