The library of Star Trek television series has been readily available on all the major streaming services in the USA for years, but it looks like those days may be coming to an end.
Netflix says goodbye to TOS, Voyager, and Enterprise
On Wednesday, Netflix announced all the shows coming and going from the service in September and three Star Trek shows were included, all of which will be leaving at the end of the month. Exiting Netflix are all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series, all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, and all four seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise. So far, there is no word on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Netflix was the first streaming service to license the Star Trek television catalog, having cut a deal in early 2011. Four of the five Star Trek shows started streaming in July 2011, with DS9 joining in October. Licensing deals for all five series were struck with Hulu and the Amazon Prime Video service in subsequent years. Star Trek: The Animated Series was available on Netflix and other services for a few years, but is currently only available on Paramount+.
Star Trek has been popular on Netflix, with Voyager being the most rewatched according to a Netflix release in 2017. And of course Netflix partnered with CBS to create Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, with Netflix distributing it outside the USA and Canada.
Starting with its 2014 launch, all of the Star Trek shows were available for streaming on CBS All Access, which was relaunched by ViacomCBS as Paramount+ earlier this year. Paramount Plus is the exclusive home in the USA to three original Star Trek series (Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks), with two more arriving over the next year (the animated kids series Prodigy and the live-action Strange New Worlds).
Star Trek coming home to Paramount Plus?
Unlike feature films which have short licensing windows and move around, as we saw recently with a number of the Star Trek feature films, television licensing deals tend to be long term. The Star Trek shows have been on Netflix consistently for ten years. The same is true for Hulu and Amazon Prime since joining those streaming services. In theory, Netflix and ViacomCBS could renegotiate a license, however, industry trends indicate this is could be the beginning of the end for Star Trek shows being sold to other streaming services. If that is the case, DS9 and TNG will eventually leave Netflix when deals for those shows expire, and all five shows will drop out of Hulu and Amazon as well; as of now, there are no details on if or when this will happen.
Assuming this is the plan, it would leave Paramount Plus as the exclusive streamer for the Star Trek television library in the USA. This type of pulling back of licensed properties has been a trend in the industry: Warner Media did it with Friends on HBO Max and NBC Universal did the same with The Office and Parks and Recreation on Peacock. ViacomCBS is also doing this with other shows. For example, Evil is also exiting Netflix in September. In June that series moved from the CBS Broadcast Network to become a Paramount Plus original series with a brand new season.
While not explicitly calling out Star Trek, ViacomCBS has made it clear they are pivoting away from their previous policy of aggressively licensing their content. Earlier this month when speaking about the latest quarterly results, CEO Bob Bakish noted that licensing revenue had fallen due in part to “ongoing efforts to limit licensing to third-party streaming services.”
As of now, there is no indication that ViacomCBS is pulling back on licensing Star Trek internationally, where all the series are still available on Netflix and other streaming services. ViacomCBS has also partnered with Netflix and Amazon to stream some of their new Star Trek shows internationally. However, in the long term, as Paramount Plus expands globally, the Star Trek franchise may eventually follow the same pattern seen in the USA.
TrekMovie has reached out to both ViacomCBS and Netflix and we are awaiting comment.
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