In the TNG episode “The Neutral Zone”, Data comments that television as an entertainment form went extinct in 2040. If it doesn’t go extinct, it’s certainly evolving and the good people at CBS are hoping they can win in this survival of the fittest.
Following the news that a new Trek series would debut online in early 2017, the Internet exploded with enthusiasm, speculation, and cynicism.
We know very little about the new series right now, except for the format: the series, after premiering on the CBS broadcast network, will run all subsequent episodes on CBS’s digital VOD subscription platform, CBS All Access. To compete with original content from providers like Hulu and Netflix, this will be the first original scripted series produced specifically for All Access (which costs $6/month and includes ads).
CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves focused on the new series in a phone call Tuesday while discussing CBS’s third-quarter earnings. He said:
A lot of conversation went into what we were going to do [with Star Trek]. All Access is very important. We remain a good partner for Netflix and Hulu. Star Trek is a family jewel; it’s an important piece of business for us as we go forward. We’re looking to do original content on All Access and build up that platform. Netflix is our friend [and] competitor. They compete with [CBS Corp.’s] Showtime. All Access will put out original content and knowing the loyalty of Star Trek fans, this will boost it. … There’s about a billion channels out there and because of Star Trek, people will know what All Access is about.
CBS stock rose slightly (about two points) since the news was announced Monday morning, and the network doubtless waited until this week to announce the new Trek series to soften the blow among investors that the network had missed its quarterly earnings estimate because of a drop in ad revenue.
While CBS dominates the airwaves with its host of procedurals – we’ve noted that CBS could bring Trek back as a procedural – the entertainment landscape has changed considerably since Enterprise went off the air 10 years ago and that trend will doubtless continue through the next 10 years.
The Verge noted that a “resurrected Star Trek could be the Trojan Horse CBS needs to get people excited about its offering, allowing it to launch even better shows for online viewers.” Indeed Moonves opened the call by noting that CBS will “live long and prosper,” which is certainly more clever than uninspired reporters (sigh) again use the phrase “boldly going where it’s never gone before” to describe a new Trek digital series.
Note however that executives using a Star Trek series to launch a new entertainment platform is hardly “boldly going” anywhere new for the franchise. Star Trek: Phase II was going to be the centerpiece of a proposed Paramount Network in 1978, but the studio rethought the whole TV idea and ultimately made Star Trek: The Motion Picture instead. Years later, Star Trek: Voyager was created with the specific task of helping launch UPN. (If you’re interested in hearing some of TrekMovie’s thoughts on Voyager, be sure to check out our most recent episode of the Shuttle Pod.)
UPN was hardly a success story, having to eventually merge with the WB. Will Star Trek: Untitled Sequel Series be more successful with CBS All Access?