Well, it’s official. Streaming entertainment is about to go where “no one has gone before.” If you need a bellwether for the popularity of streaming, look no further than the latest iteration of stories from the Star Trek universe.
Star Trek: Discovery launched on CBS as traditional network programming, but the show is also going to be a guinea pig for expansion plans by the network. CBS All Access is a subscription streaming service operated by the network, and the company hopes Star Trek can help generate new subscribers.
For many Trekkers or Trekkies, depending on which designation they prefer, this kind of treatment for a new Star Trek show is becoming old hat. Back in the mid-90s, Star Trek: Voyager was used to launch a new network, UPN. And, of course, both the original series and The Next Generation buoyed several cable networks in syndication for years, even decades.
But can Discovery succeed as well as its predecessors? Tough to say at the moment. There’s no doubt TV is at a tipping point. With Disney about to launch not one but two different ESPN channels and plans to follow that up with a family entertainment channel in 2019, some very big hitters are diving into streaming with both feet.
It could be that cable’s days are numbered. In fact, most TV networks are betting on that. From awards shows to weekly ratings, streaming is pulling serious attention. With the proverbial writing on the wall, each network needs to get a toe into the streaming pool.
For CBS, a Star Trek property is an obvious choice. The brand has a massive – and massively committed – fan base that will try just about anything with the Star Trek name attached. So, getting “eyes on” the product shouldn’t really be an issue for CBS. It’s keeping them there with enough value to pay the subscription that could get dicey.
CBS needs to succeed quickly with Discovery, but then they need to immediately follow up with additional programming that will make the fees being paid worth it. Otherwise, viewers will bounce to other options, Star Trek or no.
So, with this announcement and release, CBS is on the clock. They need to put themselves into position to attract and hold viewers, and with so much competition, there’s not much of a margin for error. CBS has the ability to produce and distribute new properties, and they need to put that apparatus to work pronto. After all, Netflix and Amazon already have the engines burning and more shows waiting to launch.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.