'Star Trek' Back On Tv -- But In Digital Space

For CBS, the digital TV “space” is increasingly becoming “the final frontier.”

Looking to push its new digital OTT brand to greater awareness, CBS will run a new “Star Trek” TV series exclusively on its CBS All Access digital platform -- with the exception of the premiere episode, which  which will air on its broadcast channel.

You can’t ask for a better marketing tease than that -- and have to believe it's better than the other way around: teasing a new TV series on, say, Yahoo -- only to run the series on CBS.

You might ask why CBS doesn’t just run the show on its own network airwaves, where it can get bigger TV advertising revenues.

Perhaps “Star Trek” -- while valuable -- isn’t the right fit for CBS’ mostly older-skewing, more female audience.

Besides a strong debut for “Supergirl,” CBS, at the moment, isn’t the action-adventure network to much of a degree. That said, TV broadcast network executives will still tell you they want to appeal to the widest possible number of viewers.



During its third quarter earnings call on Tuesday, CBS President/CEO Les Moonves called the “Star Trek” franchise sort of the “family jewels.” He said strong early reception for international sales of the new series will give CBS a good financial head start.

Still, taking one of the most iconic of TV franchises from CBS’ Paramount Television library -- which ended in the mid-1990s after five different TV series, and 12 different theatrical movies, the most recent coming in 2013 -- is a risky move.  

Is the timing right for another long-term “Trek” entertainment property? There is still some breathing room, since it won’t get up and running until 2017.

This new “Trek” will mimic a similar effort of “Star Trek: Voyager,” which helped launch the UPN mini-broadcast network in 1995, which ran until 2001. (One other bit of history: “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was supposed to help start up the Fox network in 1986. Instead it went into first-run syndication in 1987).

For CBS All Access, it’s about putting a face on the business. In quoting a journalist, Moonves says the loyalty of fans for the TV franchise will mean a lot: “Because of ‘Star Trek’, people will know what All Access is all about.”

2 comments about " 'Star Trek' Back On Tv -- But In Digital Space".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 5, 2015 at 7:28 a.m.

    Paula, as a guess, probably around 10%of the population isn't digitally connected one way or another. These are mostly oldsters of virtually no value in the opinion of some marketers, plus younger low brows, also of questionable value to many marketers.

    As for how many people will not be able to access CBS's SVOD platform, I can't say.

    Regarding the true significance of this move, if it works, the whole idea is to expose the series to a relative handful of paying subscribers first, in the process, amortizing most of the production cost. Then, the same series will, no doubt,  appear on the network's regular ad-supported primetime lineup, where it will be brand new content for 95% of the audience, but at a fraction of the programming cost. Later the series will go into syndication and make a mint for the two "partners", the network which funded its launch via SVOD and gave it mass exposure via its primetime schedule, and the actual production entity.

    The combination of two revenue streams---SVOD at the outset and ad revenues after the SVOD run---is a big idea. If it works, the network can attempt to launch series after series in this manner and completely alter its profit structure. Eventually, SVOD subscriberfs will be buying a service that includes first-run episodes of many future primetime series---the good, the bad and the ugly. If there are enough "good" ones in the menu and fewer bad ones, in no time all of the broadcast networks and, perhaps some of the cable programmers may move in this direction. I've done the math. It does not take tens of millions of SVOD subscribers to make this pay out. More like 4-6 million is all you need.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 5, 2015 at 8:48 p.m.

    Thank you, Ed. The system which you describe makes sense. My concern is for the people who could not be able to view it, especially families without connections. Your system description addresses that and probably many more questions. One of the best solutions I have read.

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