STAR TREK: DISCOVERY vs. THE ORVILLE – Should CBS be worried? (Part 2)

Last time, I discussed the recent release by two of the major networks of official trailers for their new sci-fi shows debuting for the upcoming 2017 season.  CBS, of course, unveiled STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, while FOX surprised (many) genre fans with a new Star Trek-ish series from Seth MacFarlane titled THE ORVILLE.  Both trailers were viewed millions of times with thousands of comments.  But what was very intriguing came from the thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratios.

The trailer for Star Trek: Discovery has about two and a half times more thumbs-down reactions than the trailer for The Orville.  Some misunderstood my previous blog and thought I was calling this a competition—as though fans were going to choose EITHER Discovery OR Orville.  Not quite.  Many fans (like me) might choose to watch both series.

But what makes this interesting is that we have a pretty close comparison of trailers and their reactions from viewers.  The two shows are coveting essentially the same audience (Trekkies and sci-fi fans), so the trailers and series themselves are unmistakably in the same “marketing category.”  The two trailers have almost the same run-length (2.5 minutes) and were released at nearly the same time using the same platform (Youtube).  But beyond that, the two networks are going in very different directions.

CBS is making Discovery available only through paid subscription streaming services (after a free preview of the pilot on CBS).  FOX is putting Orville on their regular network.  CBS went for a very unfamiliar (to Trekkers) production design with dark sets and mostly monochromatic uniforms.  FOX is using a very familiar-looking Star Trek visual approach of brightly-lit sets and and colorful uniforms.

So these two series are coveting the same kinds of fans with very different approaches.  One is very derivative of Star Trek but based within a different universe, and the other is very different but based within the Star Trek universe.  So the word “versus” in the title of this blog entry doesn’t imply that fans must make a choice but rather simply refers to putting the two series side-by-side for comparison, analyzing the very noticeable differences in fan reaction.

So with fans appearing to show a measurable preference for Orville over Discovery—admittedly using only online reaction through thumbs-up/down plus a general trend in posted comments—should CBS be worried?

Last time I listed the three main reasons that CBS should NOT be worried:

  • 68% approval is still pretty decent…and really, with millions of Youtube views, why should the network care about a few tens of thousands of button-clickers?
  • Trek fans historically (and hysterically!) railed against other new Star Trek series that also changed/broke the rules before their debuts, including TNG and DS9…and things turned out okay.
  • The Discovery trailer was intended to impress advertisers, not fans.  A re-cut trailer could easily produce a much more universally positive reaction from fans.

And now, let me move over to the opposite podium and argue for the other conclusion…

Why CBS should be worried

We need to understand two things.  First, you don’t have to contact millions of people to track polling data.  Those political pollsters who report this or that candidate is ahead by 9 percentage points usually poll only a few hundred or, at most, a few thousand people at a time.  Why are such polls considered reliable with such a relatively low number of respondents?  Rather than take up time explaining that, let me just provide you this link and tell you to scroll down to question #3.  They explain it better than I could.

But the important thing to know is that, while Orville may not be exactly 20% more popular among fans right now, there is still a likelihood that fans currently have more enthusiasm for Orville than for Discovery.  It’s hard to argue that fans are feeling less enthusiastic for Orville than Discovery.

And that brings us to the second thing, which is that CBS really needs approval numbers for Discovery that are HIGHER than Orville, not lower.  And the reason is pretty obvious: people have to do and pay more to see Discovery.  If you want to check out The Orville, just turn on FOX Thursday nights at 9:00 pm or set your DVR to record the show.  But if you want to watch Star Trek: Discovery, that’s a much more significant commitment on the viewer’s part.

Of course, the first thing I have to do as a viewer to watch Discovery (since I’m not planning to illegally download it) is pay $5.99/month for a subscription to CBS All Access (or the Canadian equivalent…or just watch on Netflix in the rest of the world)…or pay $9.99/month if I don’t want commercials.  But is that really the first thing I need to do?

I realize that some of you out there already subscribe to CBS All Access.  Others have smart boxes like Amazon FireTV or Roku or Apple TV or an XBox, etc.  And of course, the service will work on an iPad or iPhone or Android device.

And then there’s little ol’ me…and those like me.

I want to watch Star Trek: Discovery on my TV (I’m old-fashioned that way, and I want to invite over some friends).  So that rules out my iPhone and iPad.  My two smart blu-ray players in the house don’t have the ability to install the All Access software.  So for me, I’ll need to go out and buy a new smart box of some sort before I subscribe.

Now, I admit that that’s not a huge hassle; many smart boxes sell for under a hundred bucks.  But if I want to watch Discovery, I still have to do the following things:

  1. Go to Best Buy or wherever and purchase some kind of smart box.
  2. Take it home, install it, and set it up to recognize my home WiFi system.
  3. Subscribe to All Access and enter in my username and password into my device.

Again, none of that is rocket surgery.  It’s just a multi-step process that involves some extra effort and spending on my part.  Now compare that to the steps I need to take to watch Orville:

  1. Turn on my television Thursday at 9pm. and change the channel to FOX.

See why Discovery needs to have loyalty and enthusiasm numbers HIGHER than Orville?  It doesn’t matter if the thumbs-up/down difference is 20%, 50%, or just 10% in favor of Orville.  CBS needs those numbers in FAVOR of Discovery (not vice-versa) because they are asking more from their viewers.

Sure TNG and DS9 and the other Trek series got off to rocky starts, too.  But in those cases, as good word-of-mouth spread among fans and the general public, more people tuned in.  Viewers’ only challenge was figuring out what channel to watch and when (since the shows were syndicated and on at different times in different markets).

But will people check out Discovery as readily?  Hardcore fans might if other hardcore fans report back favorably.  I’m not as certain about non-fans as Star Trek has 50 years of history behind it, and not as many “newbies” are interested in jumping onto a moving train already so far along in its journey.  But who knows?

Right now, CBS All Access has a subscriber base of under 2 million (it was barely 1.5 million back in February).  Their goal is to reach 4 million subscribers with the help of Star Trek: Discovery.  So if we assume an awesome number of viewers tune into the premiere (say 10-12 million), they need a conversion rate of 20% to attract 2 million new subscribers.

Right now, it’s not known whether they have such a strong conversion rate.  Based on CBS’s reticence to share specific numbers after the premiere of their other original series, The Good Fight, last February, one would reasonably assume it’s nothing to shout about (or else CBS would be shouting rather than keeping their mouths shut).  So assuming a low conversion rate, CBS needs a LOT of people to check out their free pilot premiere later this fall on the main network.

And who is most likely to watch that premiere?  Well, obviously the hard-core Trek fans represent a huge portion of the viewership, but we card-carrying Trekkies tend to skew a little older.  Right now, the average subscriber to All Access has an age of 42 or 43 (skewing younger than the typical CBS viewer) with 30% in the under-34 millennial range…according to this interview.  (It’s also a 60-40 female-male ratio, which may or may not have to do with why the two leading characters in Discovery are female…not that I’m complaining!)

In short, CBS needs the demographic mix of older Trekkies and younger general sci-fi fans…the ones that seem to feel so positively about the trailer for The Orville.  And CBS needs them to show up in huge numbers for the premiere in order to convert a decent percentage into subscribers.  So again, at least for now, the news isn’t great for CBS if they have an enthusiasm gap already.

And that brings us to the final argument for CBS not worrying: this trailer was cut for advertisers, NOT for fans.  That argument breaks down when you realize two things…

First, The Orville‘s trailer was ALSO meant for advertisers, as was The Gifted‘s trailer  (86% positive, 14% negative) and the Black Lightning trailer (87% positive, 13% negative).  Sure, the audience for superheros isn’t the same as general sci-fi and Star Trek, but there is a fair amount of overlap.  Most of the trailers seem to be matching the 87%/13% split of The Orville…making Discovery a notable exception.  Why did fans like all the other trailers cut for advertisers more than they liked the one for Discovery?

And finally, do you remember that first trailer for Star Trek Beyond with the Beastie Boys soundtrack?  That adrenaline-overloaded, action-packed jumble seemed more like The Trek and the Furious and so repelled  Star Trek fans that even Simon “Scotty” Pegg (who co-wrote the movie) was critical of it.  Eventually, the studio cut a new, less manic trailer that was much more warmly received by fans.  But was the damage already done?

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That might have been the case for Star Trek Beyond.  Of course, we’ll never know for certain, but a film that most fans agree was better than its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness, ended up grossing $70 million less.  It’s very possible that first “Beastie Boys” trailer dug a hole that Beyond simply wasn’t able to climb out of.  And it’s also now possible that Discovery might be in the same hole.

Granted, Discovery‘s hole might not be nearly as deep.  Last week’s trailer isn’t being universally panned by fans the way that Beyond‘s first trailer was.  At worst, according to those Youtube numbers, about two-thirds of viewers still liked what they saw.  So the sky isn’t falling.

But as I said above, CBS has a higher mountain to climb because the new series isn’t on regular network TV.  And the last thing they wanted was to have to begin climbing that mountain from a starting point already inside a hole…not a deep hole but still a hole.

So, should CBS be worried?  What do you think?

98 thoughts on “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY vs. THE ORVILLE – Should CBS be worried? (Part 2)”

  1. What do I think? I think you need a job or something more constructive to do. Maybe go outside, spend time with your significant other and kids.

    1. I took Jayden to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Open House on all day Saturday. On Sunday, the family traveled to Anaheim for an overnight, visiting Downtown Disney on Sunday and Disneyland all day Monday. It was lots of fun.

      What’d you do last weekend, Ken?

      1. Walked the streets of London. Took in the National Gallery and Museum of Art. Sun was actually out.

    2. Ken: I’m surprised that you dropped a bomb on the publisher of this blog for indulging in his hobby (talking about sci fi films) on his own blog dedicated for that very purpose (talking about sci fi films). After all, the rest of us read what Jonathan writes because we enjoy sci fi films, in my case especially independently produced ones (despite the occasional fan Civil War).

  2. Jonathan, I think you have the basics correct. Another consideration is that there is a void of Trek that people wanted to see (TOS style) and the new fan film rules ensure that it stays that way. So the fans have a choice, go over to the dark side (literally it is now the new thing, dark and moody) or find a substitute (such as Orville). I posted a video from a discussion in Small Access where a guy gives a pretty balanced view of both sides of the fan issue with Trek today, and seems to have a good grasp of just what CBS is up against. When you look at it, there is the cost of subscribing, so for a month you get about 1.25 an episode, which may be low enough for fans to swallow their gorge and just watch it, because that is all there is, and will be for the foreseeable future. Orville ups the ante a bit, if people are going to decide “Do I need the pain of setting up a box just for Trek, and Trek I really do not feel is the Trek I wanted?” they will need to balance not just the “Trekkiness” of Discovery, but the value of it. I was considering your challenge to sign up for a month, but I thought it was just a matter of paying and logging in and streaming on my 32″ TV I use as a monitor, if that is true, I might still. I am not in the set box realm yet, although DISH is rapidly pushing me that way. One limit may also be the lack of efficient high speed internet to a lot of communities, and people may not have the data usage for their phones/tablets, so that could also make it harder for CBS. Orville has not got any of those limits, and I wonder if they can monitor how many people DVR it, vs live watching, vs who is actually monitored for numbers (they used to have the Nielsen boxes in the old days, so if you didn’t have it, you didn’t count). I also think Mr. Byrd is rather rude, your article is a valid questioning of the situation, and is also being repeated a lot of other places. Good for you taking Jayden to JPL, and Disneyland, better than a lot of other things parents do.

    1. “I also think Mr. Byrd is rather rude…”

      Yeah. At first I trashed the comment. Then I un-trashed it, as it really does come off in a bad light for Mr. (flipping me the) Byrd. After all, if Ken doesn’t think I should be blogging, then why is he even coming to this site to red what I have to say?

      I also thought it was important for people to understand that I take my responsibilities as a stay-at-home father very seriously. My work day begins a 6:30 a.m. and includes waking up Jayden, getting him dressed, making his breakfast and lunch, and driving him to school, After I drop off Jayden, along with house chores like buying groceries, I do video editing for what will eventually be online instructor training for a children’s gymnastics facility. It’ll ultimately be a huge back-end website to train new instructors at multiple locations. That job frees me up by 3:00 p.m. to pick up Jayden, who has Karate on Mondays and Fridays, gymnastics on Tuesdays, and tennis on Wednesdays (and his tennis instructor is also Michael Dorn’s tennis coach…how cool is that???). There’s also the occasional play date and/or trips to interesting places like JPL or the Griffith Observatory. Dinner time for Jayden is 7:00 p.m. After that we watch Star Trek together for 20-30 minutes while I exercise (we’re on “Spectre of the Gun” right now), and then it’s upstairs for a shower, teeth brushing, and pajamas for Jayden. At this point, Wendy usually gets home from work to tuck Jayden in and sing to him. Then it’s dinner for Wendy and me, maybe a little TV, and then blogging. The blogging keeps me awake until 1am when I have to take Jayden to the bathroom so he doesn’t wet the bed in the middle of the night.

      Then the next morning, the alarm goes off at 6:30 and we do it all again. 🙂

      1. Wow, I do not envy you your schedule, I had 3 sons, all grown (2 in the Army, one a senior Prison Guard/Trainer) We were lucky in they were an independent lot almost from leaving the diapers, other than the one time the oldest peed on the electric heater in his sleep…lucky it wasn’t a shocking experience….You have my respect as a father doing an excellent job of looking after the most important thing you have, your family.

  3. I think you’ve hit the Klingon on the head with this analysis, Jonathan. Another avenue you might explore is that instead of being “too big to fail”, Star Trek may now be “too big to succeed”. Or how Star Wars could resurrect itself with a couple of watchable films, but Star Trek has dug itself deeper with a few below-average ones, primarily due to one being a film franchise and the other being mainly a TV franchise. There’s lots of stuff we don’t know about the SW universe after 8 films, but after 700+ episodes of Trek, there’s a “re-run” roadblock to navigate.

    1. I’ve actually thought that what Star Trek needed was a series of linked anthology stories…each lasting for 13 episodes. Think of Marvel’s Netflix series: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Not every one of them hit on all cylinders (you listenin’, Iron Fist?), but the franchise stays strong nonetheless. And eventually all the series converge into The Defenders.

      Now, imagine doing that for Star Trek. One series is a deep space exploration story (like our classic TOS/TNG). One is about the “grunts” fighting a border scrimmage. One is a “West Wing” type of series taking place on Earth but showing the political intrigue of the Federation and Starfleet high brass as various species try to work together despite their cultural differences…but not everyone has the same priorities or methods (and some aren’t exactly “on the team”). And the final series is about a deep cover operative for Section 31 doing spy work for the good of the Federation…with questionable methods (think “24”). Four different styles of series: classic Trek, war story, political intrigue, and spy thriller…all within the Trek universe. Then have them all converge into an inevitable crossover series where all the characters must work together to save the Federation from a larger threat that slowly grows out of each series.

      “Too big to succeed?” Hah! The surface is only just beginning to be scratched. CBS just needs to think outside of the box.

      1. I like how you think! I very much like this concept. It would be totally excellent & have me hooked if they did it.

      2. You really need a contract from them. Have you seen “Chaos on the Bridge”? I found it to be very entertiaining as well as a good story of all the personalities and individuals and all the various interests involved in the first 3 years of STNG. It seems that may have morphed into a bigger, similar type issue where one grand pooh bah is the determining factor for the shows and if his pea brain cannot imagine it, no ones can. Your idea is exactly the type of thing Trek could support, it is such a huge wide open space they do not need to play games with it, which is one reason I could not understand the Axanar thing from the get go. It was a perfect setup for them to just buy in and have an instant series, even if they went with Discovery to appeal to the other side of Trek. Your ideas do the same, and that is the shame of it all, such wonderful opportunities lost because of…what, hubris?

        1. “Your ideas do the same, and that is the shame of it all, such wonderful opportunities lost because of…what, hubris?”

          Not hubris…fear. There is a lot of fear in Hollywood. A friend of mine used to be a VP of programming at NBC. They knew from the moment they were hired to the time they were fired a few years later that the end would ultimately come, and they were always one really bad flop away from that inevitability. “I get paid to opine,” this person said to me once. That’s quite an interesting job to have. You need to find out what’s wrong with a sitcom or drama and then come in to fix it. But what if there’s nothing wrong with it? If you say nothing, you’re not doing your job, and why are you even necessary? If you say the wrong thing, you can ruin it. (Remember when they introduced Ross’ monkey on “Friends”? That was one person trying to justify their job–not my friend, BTW–and it was stupid and unnecessary. “Friends” was a hit;l it didn’t need a monkey.) And if a show really is off the rails, can just one VP with opinions really save it? What if the dog just won’t hunt?

          There is a LOT of fear in Hollywood. Only the very highest-placed PTB don’t live in constant fear…and even they’re not completely immune. So no, it’s not hubris. Or maybe it is a little hubris…but that’s only to mask the fear.

          1. Hollywood has returned to the old “play it safe” studio system that prevailed before the 1960s. The market is once again more important than the artistic vision of the producers

          2. As I watched “Baywatch” bomb at both the box office and with critics (I didn’t bother going to see it myself), I wondered who is it that thinks: “Okay, we’ll take a well-known TV series from the 70s, 80s, 90s, reboot it as a movie, and turn it into a buddy farce comedy! That’s sure to work!”

            Along with Baywatch, we’ve recently had CHiPs, Starsky and Hutch, 21 Jump Street, Dukes of Hazard, Land of the Lost, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the Green Hornet, the Wild Wild West…did I miss any? C’mon, play! It’s fun.

            Yeah, Hollywood has mostly run out of story ideas–or rather, the execs have. I know many screen-writers with fantastically original script ideas. (Heck, I have one myself!) One friends of mine just got a script optioned. I congratulated him, but he didn’t look as happy as I would have expected. To quote him, “That means nothing. I’ve had a dozen scripts optioned. Only two made it any further than that. A few others they still pay me for regularly to keep the option. But basically, I don’t get my hopes up. No one does in this town…except for those who either just got here or have been hired to simply write a script for a movie that a studio has already decided to make. And even then, be careful the director doesn’t take your writing credit away from you!” (Yeah, that just happened to him–he was VERY pissed about that.)

            Anyway, Hollywood isn’t always the happy place you see in dance numbers at the beginning of “LA LA Land.”

          3. Unfortunately, the pea brain that Brian refers to belongs to the head of CBS, Les Moonves who can’t or refuses to think outside the box, especially when it comes to Star Trek, but probably SHOULD do so!!!

          4. Les Moonves inherited Star Trek and doesn’t get the show. It’s pretty much as simple as that. CBS planned to launch a streaming platform to compete with Netflix (or at least share the pie). Star Trek seemed to be a good property to include on the service to grab Trekkies–since they’ll be sure to subscribe to anything Star Trek. Yeah…not so much, it seems. The more the new series tries to grab NEW fans, the more of the old fans seem to be planning to avoid it. Now, is that really a one-third proposition (a third of fans will avoid the new series completely)? Or are the Disco-detractors a more vocal minority that sounds bigger than it is?

            We’ll see in a few months, won’t we?

            BTW, this has all happened before. Remember UPN? That was Paramount trying to launch its own TV network to compete with the established ones like ABC, NBC, CBS, and latecomer FOX. And again, they used Star Trek to help launch it.

            And where is UPN today? It shut down in 2006…being merged (after the CBS merger with Viacom and Paramount) with Warner’s WB network into the CW, which is still broadcasting today. But UPN itself…that’s a dim memory. And I kinda expect we’ll one day be saying the same thing about CBS All Access.

          5. As an aside, I thought Man from UNCLE was really good, but your general point was well-taken.

  4. I want you to know that i do witch FOX40 in sacramento ca and i don’t even stay away from ch 13 in sacramento ca they have CBS programing, i will not view no shows from them. I want people to know this that i want CBS out of the network of trying to rip us off of star trek of any kind. I will not get my tv as part of the nealson system. Cbs don’t know anout the network wars that still go’s on to this date.

  5. Ok, here is my attempt at voicing an opinion. . .

    Taken by itself, I liked the Discovery trailer. If this was being pitched as a brand new series I would watch it no question. The wrinkle I have a hard time getting over is that they are pitching it as Star Trek – but ignoring all the history of the last 50 years (if you factor out JJ). It is really hard to look at that and not think to yourself, this is supposed to be 10 years before Kirk? The tech is wrong, the look is wrong, the feel is wrong. If this had been in a time period other than established canon I would be backing it hard, but this just feels like another JJ moment. I got burned on that once already. Will I watch it? Probably, eventually. They picked a good cast and for that I will watch. But, in my heart I will never been able to see this as anything other than a poor Trek copy.

  6. The argument that “this trailer was cut for advertisers”, I think also breaks down under the following logic:

    1. The trailer was not shown exclusively to advertisers, but to the public as a whole (how does one differentiate between the advertisers and the rest of the public anyhow? I run a small business, maybe I want to put together an advert to run during the show).

    2. If it were not meant for consumption, why the heck did CBS air it from their own website? If it weren’t meant for public consumption, and were scared of it getting leaked, then they would need disclosure contracts given out to everyone they showed it to, and do so in a private setting.

    3. From 1. and 2. we have ascertained that this was not meant exclusively for advertisers, then logically one should also make the trailer appealable to the general public as well.

    Tl;dr, I don’t see how that works as an excuse.

      1. You okay there Jonathan? I detect negativity in your words, but you use a smiling face emote.

        To which blog post do you refer to? I thought this was the only one in which you were debunking these arguments, and I’m used to your meticulous referencing back so my apologies if I missed something.

        Based just on this blog post (as I can’t see another discussing this), I only see the counter-argument of “Orville also aimed their trailer at advertisers and did better with the public” and “First impressions matter for fans so you can’t just brush this aside”, compared with my counter-argument of “If CBS intended this trailer only for advertisers then why did they release it publicly?”. As I say, apologies if I have missed this somewhere, but from looking I cannot see such a counter-argument.

        1. I was responding to the “TL;DR” (which I understand means “Too long; didn’t read”). So I thought that meant you didn’t read the full blog. My apologies, as it seems like I misunderstood.

          As for CBS intending their trailer only for advisers, that was a theory put forth by a few people commenting over on Small Access. Obviously, the trailer was intended primarily for advertisers, as that’s what the Upfronts are for. But all of those trailers are then released to the general public (they leak anyway…so why bother hiding them?). So yeah, you kinda have to impress both advertisers and viewers at the same time. The other sci-fi/superhero trailers did that. Disco…not as much.

          1. Ahh cool, yes, you got the “Tl;dr” right, but normally people use it to refer what they themselves have written, and the majority opinion on it says to place it at the end as a summary of what you have written. Of course I have read what you have written, that would be very rude of me and the height of ignorance not to do so.

            “they leak anyway…so why bother hiding them” << That was my point 2, non-disclosure agreements etcetera, but too much hassle unless you have stuff you really want to show the advertisers, but not the public/fans just yet.

            Which brings me to another important point. Surely in this day and age with youtube etcetera, advertisers would want to gauge public opinion on a show before deciding whether to and how much to invest. If advertisers see a show with strong negative reactions to it by a key demographic wouldn't that make them less likely to want to invest? If I were an advertiser seeing all these different shows, and I looked up to see how they were performing on youtube as you did, and I saw DIS stand out like a sore thumb with so many thumbs down, wouldn't that make me wary about investing in the show?

          2. Glad to have made your day.

            A similar thought popped up when I read your part 1 when you wrote “The trailer from last week wasn’t intended to impress the fans; it was intended to impress the advertisers, they want to see X,Y,and Z”. I thought to myself “why would advertisers care about X,Y, and Z when it only matters to them how many people will see the advert, surely instead of trying to judge themselves and bring in their own personal biases, wouldn’t they get a better understanding of the marketing possibilities by conducting market research on a trailer(s) aimed at the demographic(s) who would watch the show?”

  7. If Orville is anything like its trailer, it should be an absolute blast to watch. I’ll give it 5 episodes to reach its stride. It looks totally fun.

    Disco, on the other hand, will be off my list until I get confirmation from others that it’s OK to spend $6 to stream it (plus I’ll wait until all episodes are available, i.e., wait until the last episode airs for the season then binge watch the entire season over the course of 2 weeks instead of waiting for each episode to ‘air.’ That will cut my expenses for the subscription even more effectively than Jonathan’s ‘Small access’ strategy.)

    P.S., Jonathan, I hoped you had fun at JPL, I’ve only been here for 39 years and it never gets old for me.

    1. Back in 1993 and 1994, I worked at the JPL Teaching Resource Center. And our attorney for many years used to be the general counsel for intellectual property at JPL. It’s a fantastic place, and I love that Jayden loves it there, too. (And hey, both Jayden and I have the same initials as the facility!)

    2. I like this idea!
      Just like Netflix.

      As soon as I saw the abbreviation “Disco”, my mind immediately went to “Disco, Disco sucks”

  8. I think we wait until both shows are out in the market and the ratings come in. But your conjectures/assessments are thorough, unbiased and thought-provoking. There’s nothing wrong with “idle speculation”, particularly when you are writing to an audience keen to read any information available. I’m in Australia, so no All Access, and I don’t use Netflix. I find no need for instant gratification (no criticisms of anyone intended) and am happy to wait for Blu-ray release where I can watch on a large-screen projection system with Dolby Atmos audio. (Tell me, why do some people want high def images only to watch on a tiny iPhone screen???)

    Anyway, thank you for the two posts, I found them intelligent and interesting, and I think I’m looking forward to Orville much more than S.T.

    By the way, I hope Jayden enjoyed that weekend!

    1. “Tell me, why do some people want high def images only to watch on a tiny iPhone screen???”

      Excellent question! I’ve got no idea!

      As for Jayden, I think he had an out-of-this-world weekend (and his Daddy dresses him funny):

      1. I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again . Instead of complaining about CBS All Access just wait until it comes out on Dvd .

        1. Of course, then you’ll have to buy the DVD set…which’ll likely cost as much as a half-year’s subscription to All Access. But at least there’s no commercials on a DVD! 🙂

  9. Hi Jonathan,

    I am a fan of your blog and have been following it since Alec Peters recommended it.

    I think you have barely touched on the core issue. The demographic for Star Trek has not changed, but the people who fit that demographic when TOS was in syndication are older now.

    A Beastie Boys high energy teaser makes perfect sense for the 18 to 20 year olds of the time. The TOS premier made sense for the 18 to 20 year olds of its time.

    I did not care for the reboot. But I have come to realize that it served its purpose. Which was to separate a younger audience from the price of a movie ticket or tickets. It seemed to have week plot, or a plot that was a mere excuse to move the characters to each required scene or bit of dialogue. And young people were fine with this.

    The Star Trek reboot gave the Federation flagship to fresh acadamy grads. This annoyed older fans. I think this was aimed at millenials.

    This age difference immediately explains the different looks of Discovery and Orville. Discovery’s audience is younger and a darker grittier tone makes sense for them. Orville, by contrast, is aimed at an older audience. You have to know the thing being parodied to get the joke and that is an older audience. (In order to draw a younger audience, Orville is relying on this generations love of sarcasm as evidenced by how they get their news. Colbert, Noah, etc… So Orville will have wider appeal, but make no mistake, it is aimed at an older audience.)

    I think a concrete difference between the generations is one of optimism. This generation is less optimistic. Hence a gritty look versus a colorful brightly lit one.

    I think CBS/Paramount are perfectly happy to take your money if you like their version of Star Trek, but are not concerned if you don’t. We are no longer their target audience.

    I don’t want to bash CBS/Paramount. They have made a business decision and are succeeding. (Although I can’t help but wonder if all access will go the same way as UPN.)

    1. Awesome points, CSG. That’s what I love most about doing this blog: the intelligent comments that make me think! (The rude and crude insults…not so much.) 🙂

      I have many thoughts on CBS’s strategy. I almost wrote a Part 3. It’s obvious they know their subscription service skews younger than their viewer demographic. Fox’s viewer demographic skews younger in general. In that way, CBS might be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. They want mostly old fogies to do something that younger folks are more comfortable doing. But their content (including Trek) mostly skews older. So they’re trying to rejuvenate Star Trek and make The Good Fight younger and more hip than The Good Wife was.

      The problem there is they bump into an “oh, it’s just more of the same” reaction from fans. There’s so much dark and gritty sci-fi out there. Fox, instead, is counter-programming…offering one of the few alternatives that is bright and hopeful instead. One wonders what will happen if Orville performs strongly and Discovery tanks. Will CBS realize that they could have done Star Trek much more simply and easily, plopped it on the CW, and had a hit show on a small and very targeted network (that attracts younger viewers in general)? Or will they just assume that Star Trek isn’t a viable tent-pole property anymore? It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the ratings go as I just described.

  10. Jonathan, depending on the manufacturer of your smart blue rays, they have a software update that has all access. Therefore you might not need the extra box. Luckily I have both. You might even be able to download the update from the web. Wouldn’t hurt to check.

      1. Bummer, maybe they’re waiting for more demand. I don’t think All Access has been around for than 2 yrs but not positive, and actually probably should have said updated firmware. Now, if your blue rays are more than a few yrs old that might not be possible.

        1. They’re both pretty old, but one may be getting replaced. We just lost the remote and turned the house upside down looking for it! If we can’t find it tomorrow, we’re stuck with a mostly unusable Blu-ray player!

          1. Tha’s no fun at all. If you do get a new one than I suspect it’ll have all access. I know both my Roku 4 box and Samsung Viewtablet have it and I suspect that my Sasung Blue ray, which was top of the line for 2015 has it. I’m guessing anything out before 2014 or 2015 would not have enough capacity in their firmware for many extra channels. Since streaming apps didn’tcome on the scene in a big way til 2015.

          2. Actually, we did find the remote the next day, but I’m still leaning toward Roku or FireTV at the end of the summer. The two smart players we have were purchased in 2015, but they were cheap and probably old models…just like me!

          3. Jonathan, I just talked to the first person I have met who used Roku and he said it not only sped everything up, but is incredibly easy to use. I just went through a torture session with DISH over trees blocking the sattelite and having to move the DISH, between costs changing several times and their telling me I bneeded DISH Protect (at 8.99 month) I am about done with them. They are a good comparison to all of this, the Sattelite people make you pay out the gazoo to get the 4 or 5 channels you ever watch so they can carry 200 channels no one cares about (how many selling channels do you need?) and these pop up channels like CBS will either have to be a small fish in the Roku pond, or merge with comeone. But the Roku/FireStick seems to be the next mode of streaming. Easy and simple.

  11. …yeah, no. they are not worried, they are arrogant!

    CBS thinks they know better than the fans, and they are going to continue to try to ram this nu-trek crap down our idiotically gaping gullets… =(

    …but their model is already failing, and will need to conform more to industry standards, like selling it to all the major streamers / bundlers

    nu-trek doesn’t sell very well anymore, trying to sell it on tv will be even worse

    hopefully, discovery will kill zombie nu-trek for good! (and send kurtzman back to wherever)

    1. I wouldn’t call them arrogant, per se. From what I’ve read and a couple of the people I’ve spoken with directly, the vibe I’m getting is more “whistling past the graveyard.” They’re trying to sound as confident and optimistic as possible. They don’t beleive the negative fan reaction is as much of a problem as some of the rest of us do. They suspect it’s more likely a few very vocal detractors making a lot of noise rather than a silent majority (or large minority). And maybe they’re right.

      But CBS doesn’t have much margin for error here. They keep talking about more original programming coming to All Access, but nothing has been announced so far beyond Star Trek and The Good Fight. This might mean they’re just playing their hand close to the vest, but I’ve done some crunching of the numbers. Right now, at best, All Access is taking in about $100-$150 million dollars in revenue per year ($72/year times 1.5 or 2 million subscribers). Star Trek: Enterprise shot for about $5 million per episode. Assuming Discovery is about the same price, then $75 million (more than half) of their revenue is going into producing Disco. While The Good Fight is probably costing less per episode, that’s still eating up a lot of the revenue…leaving little left over for marketing, administration, and technical operations.

      Now, there are some wildcards in those calculations. First of all, the Netflix licensing deal reportedly covered the production cost of Disco (or most of it), and I heard through the grapevine that their licensing deal with Netflix for the entire Trek library package was in the $40-50 million range. So it’s probably true that most of the cost of Disco is covered and CBS Interactive is playing with “house money” (as they say in Vegas).

      Also, I didn’t include advising. The $6/month option comes with commercials that can’t be fast-forwarded through, so there is additional revenue coming in to All Access. However, with audience numbers in the low millions, 30-second ads are not selling in the six figures and more likely in the mid-five figures. So let’s assume $50K for a 30-second ad on All Access. If CBS sells ten ads per episode of Disco, that’s $500K in ad revenue per episode. So assume ad revenue for a 15-episode season is $7.5 million. Not bad, not great. (And yes, I know that some subscribers are paying $10/month or $120/year for no ads. But remember that CBS cannot then charge advertisers for those viewers…which lowers ad revenue. So I think that $7.5 million number is reasonable…barring a full annual report to the CBS shareholders.)

      Assuming Disco is paid for by Netflix, CBS is making enough revenue through All Access to afford to make maybe one or two more original series. Compare that to the number of new series coming out from Netflix–which has 93 million subscribers worldwide! Now, of course, CBS is facing a loss-leader at the moment. They have to invest in All Access to make it viable while it’s still in its infancy, so it’ll probably be running in the red for a while. That’s fine. But a pathway to profitability needs to be apparent sooner rather than later. CBS has set a “modest” goal of 4 million subscribers by 2020. But most of those will need to come from Disco in 2017, seeing as how there’s been nothing announced in the pipeline yet for 2018 or 2019.

      My gut tells me that CBS is taking a wait and see posture at the moment. If Disco scores them a million or more new subscribers, then All Access goes on. If not, I suspect CBS folds the service, bites the bullet, and realizes that their true path to profitability in the streaming service arena is to just produce and license shows to Netflix. Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime got there first, and at least for now, the market is saturated. CBS just got to the party too late. Stuff happens. They gave it their best shot, but people might simply not be willing to subscribe to more than one or two or at most three streaming services before they say enough is enough. And CBS really isn’t offering the kind of competitive content that most viewers want to see in large numbers. Star Trek has the chance of changing that equation, but if it fails to do so, I don’t think CBS wants too many other series in development when it pulls the plug on All Access.

      1. The big three streamers have and now supply their own content as well as produce their own content. The next 3 conglomerates are right now tier 2. The have both production and distribution arms that they have not fully utilized. Those 3 are Disney/ABC/Disney channel, which can also stream programming. FOX/ 21 ST CENTURY FOX FILMS/FX who.can also stream, and NBC/UNIVERSAL/COMCAST, who will start their own streaming service but has better content than CBS. CBS hurt itself by splitting up with Paramount, although they had good reason to. Now they have no way to make in house content that puts them in the bottom tier right now. Also since they also divided rights to Star Trek between IP between them that causes more headaches since unlike the others, they can’t present Star Trek across all platforms as an integrated whole and nowadays you need all the platforms not just some.

          1. Incidently, when you get a new Blue Ray player, go for the top of the line or Roku 4, or what is now called Roku Premium. They changed the names of the different tiered models last year, just after I bought my Roku 4.

        1. Frank has a good observation, Jonathan, which goes back to the heart of the problem. The top three services are all innovators. Remember when Netflix was “dying” about 4 or 5 years ago, because of things like Redbox? They adapted and changed, and started providing unique content across a broad spectrum, as well as buying good material. They have the rights to Discovery in everything but the US. The next three are all creaking, moaning, geriatric “established” companies, who’s leadership is entrenched in ancient concepts of customers, customer support and customer desires, as well as inflexible management. The facts alone explain the current status of Trek as a whole: fragmented, disconnected, with no vision as to a future and a plan. It is just “Come up with something and they will like it” mentality, along with draconian protectionism. You don’t need a crystal ball to know the outcome here. The next step will be in a couple years, Trek will become a licenseable IP package that they will sell to producers who will make content, with some kind of “bucketing system” in place (TOS, TNG, VOY, DS9, ENT) that has specicif rules and guidelines. Unless they just go bankrupt and maybe auction off all of it.

          1. Brian I agree with you and remember both CBS and Viacom/Paramount are wholly owned subsidiaries of Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements now daily managed by Shari Redstone with all the uncertainties that causes along with Paramount being in the red.

  12. The subscription barrier you write about is a good one for many even under 30 people although less so.

    And your point about becoming interested later on is very good. I did not watch the first B5 episode but given what I heard, I jumped on and stayed in spite of some bad shows – the overall story arc, the quality of the actors and the complexity of some of the characters hooked me but good.

    So I’m sensitive to the casting and the complexity of the characters and over time their interaction. Spock-McCoy, for example, reminded me of my wife and I from time-to-time because of the humorous jabs but underlying affection.

    One more cogent point, I think, is that Trek fans are I believe not just Trek fans but SF fans in general and even SF fans with other interests. And besides this, the multiple channels for viewing just keep growing with more and more programming to choose from. Thus I think we’re getting more and more picky about what we watch over time especially if watching TV is a social experience with a SF fan sitting next to a non-SF fan on the couch.

    Executive summary: we’ll see!

  13. I completely agree with your analysis of into darkness, I missed the beasty trailer and went to see the new star trek and was so scarred by the event i refuse to see into darkness, even though my best friend who’s also a huge trekkie says it’s actually a good movie, but like the extra matrix movies i’ve learned my lesson and refuse to acknowledge the mere existence of inferior trek. I’ve still yet to see the third matrix movie and have almost forgotten the entirety of the second, working vary hard to remember the matrix as a good stand-alone flick. Discovery is going to have that same weight slung around it’s neck, as much as i’d like to keep an open mind, i will probably refuse to see it for fear that it will contaminate me, like a spot on my soul that i can’t scrub clean. So it’s pretty obvious that CBS is choosing to stay the course even after many fans chose to stay home when into darkness came out. As someone pointed out earlier, they must be trying to grab a younger audience without having to resort to creating a new product, even if that alienates segments of their already established audience.

  14. One easy way for may people to watch on a TV is to hoolup a PC or a laptop using the HDMI port on the computer. That is how I watch TV, one of my PC’s even does 4k TV.
    Long HDMI or HDMI over Cat6 cables exist so the pc can be in another room if it is too noisy
    (I built my systems so that they are either fanless or the fans shutoff at Video playback operating loads)

      1. A Pro computer and no HDMI? Perhaps another reason why Macs only have 12% market share. :-). Sorry Johnathon, couldn’t help myself.

          1. Jonathan, I wouldn’t too complacent about viruses on the Mac. I have heard of a couple of them out there. Don’t think that the bad guys aren’t aware that the Macs are out there. Also, the three main popular OS’s out there are loosely based on Linux kernels, not to mention all the distributions of linux iteself. If they find a common defect in the kernnels, nothing is safe from being attacked.

          2. Following on from Frank: it isn’t so much that Macs are inherently virus-immune, rather that (not meaning to be a smart-a) the Mac market isn’t big enough to be of real interest to those hackers who seek a larger ‘audience’. They are sick people who really need to have some sort of intelligent interest in life! Like getting involved with applying their computer skills to Star Trek fan films CGI.

          3. The Mac market is smaller plus the Apple OS is a pain in the butt to break into. Yes, one CAN write a virus for a Mac. But is it really worth the extra effort for the smaller payoff?

        1. Probably. But I’ll probably break down and get an Apple TV box or Amazon FireTV…or maybe it’s finally time for an Xbox or Playstation. Man, I miss my Atari 2600. 🙂

          1. The added benefit of getting a Playstation or Xbox would be the ability to play Star Trek Online for free. If you just need a box and not for gaming a Roku would be far cheaper than an Xbox or Playstation.

      2. For seeing all the good and positive things in otherwise dreary news surrounding trek-stuff, you have an unnatural knack for being utterly ‘not only is the glass not half-full, it’s bloody empty!’ when it comes to computer stuff. It’s a machine, bend it to your will and make it behave, there’s always solutions to technical problems, most times more than one. =)

        1. It’s the “more than one” that drives me crazy!!! My wife is the same way when we go to the Cheesecake Factory and navigate our way through the 35-page menu! 🙂

  15. One headwind that has hit Star Trek hard is sociological change. Economic/cultural/political problems previous generations faced caused a bloom of popular progressivism and a “look to the future” attitude that carried us through the decades after WWII. Starting with the assassination of MLK and the Kennedy brothers, we entered another era of political upheaval, social unrest, and economic challenge (oil shock and stagflation). A certain band of political opportunists took advantage and by the present day they have managed to almost invert our way of thinking as a society. We don’t think about tomorrow, because we no longer have hope for it to be better than today. So we bunker down and snarl at each other like hungry dogs fighting over dried up old bones.

    In that environment, sci-fi that is pro-human, progressive, and optimistic doesn’t play well with the mass audience. Enter the dumbed-down, sexed up, run-n-jump/pewpewpew JJ Trek.

    1. Valid points. The world had changed from the 60s to the 80s, and TNG managed to reinvent Star Trek without tossing continuity completely to the wind. DS9 followed suit into the 90s, even predicting 9-11 and its aftermath half a decade before the Patriot Act even happened.

      Yes, the pew-pew-pew of JJ Trek revitalized the franchise, and Disco might be awesome. We’ll have to see. But my point was simply that, what always made Star Trek special was, in fact, that hope for a better future. If Orville does well and a dark and depressing (if that’s what it is) Discovery tanks, that will send a message that hope is not dead…or even on life-support!

  16. Using your TV as a computer monitor while streaming would be cheaper than buying a box. I use hdmi from my pc to TV when streaming.

  17. Hate to say this…but as a lifelong Star Trek fan…I am more interested in the Orville than Discovery at this point. Like Khan, I grow fatigued at the revisiting of previous timelines remade in the modern image. I like the idea of an anthology series (TNG-DS9-VGR casts unite!) but only if it pushes things forward. Going back isn’t a terrible idea, so long as it does not try to contradict and/or alter what came after. I understand this was the necessity for the Kelvin Timeline experiment which, for lack of good storytelling to capitalize on the idea, was a brilliant thought, but ultimately is not forward thinking enough to sustain a long shelf life. I will not be contributing money to Discovery, but I am rather excited about the DS9 documentary that is on the horizon.

    As for the cheesecake factory: Order Avocado Egg rolls and call it a day 🙂

  18. Only time will tell. What really worries me though is that there is a growing number of Trek fans who, simply put, couldn’t be farther from understanding, let alone embracing, what Trek actually tried to be philosophically. I’m seeing a lot of decidedly right-wing readings of the franchise, ranging from simplistic “we beat the bad guys” and “I like the starship battles” to semi-sophisticated Libertarian takes that just make me scratch my head.

    1. Star Trek has the beauty of being many things to many people. Religious? Check out the Bajorans. Atheist? Watch “Who Watches the Watchers?” If you’re a pacifist, watch “Day of the Dove.” If you’re a hawk, watch the last four seasons of Deep Space Nine. When you’ve got 700 episodes and a dozen-plus movies, you can pretty much find something for everyone…except maybe for generalists trying to paint Trek with a single broad brush. 🙂

      1. …i found the bajorans (and vulcans) to be *spiritual*, rather than religious 😉

        1. Spiritual AND religious. The Bajorans had many traditions and rituals, which often go along with religion. Spirituality, in my experience, can exist without ritual. My belief in God and the Universe doesn’t require me to say anything, light any candles, or say a prayer in any language. For me, that’s spiritual. Anything else, for me at least, would come under the heading of “religion.”

          So how about those fan films, huh? 🙂

          1. …hmmm …it’s a fine line that i suppose, is in the eye of the beholder / practitioner 😉

            i agree with you re: ritual

            …however, practice does not equate to religion (take buddhism, for example)

            …and yes, there were examples of corruption among bajorans (and vulcans), but that’s karma 😉

          2. Personallyu, aside from the ususual suspects like Continues, I think Brandon Bridges’ “Time Travel Trilogy” (Star Trek: Spectre, Star Trek: Retribution, and Star Trek: Redemption) are some of the best out there. Bridges has a fantastic eye for recreating lighting setups, camera angles, etc so that they look and feel just like the LA efforts. His command of dialogue is excellent and his ear for music to “borrow” is top notch. I especially recommend ST: Redemption. Simply a marvelous effort. Only flaw is that he was never able to get a voice cast together and had to use his temp vocals (mostly Bridges himself). You hardly notice it though after a few minutes since everything else is so high-quality.

          3. I never made it completely through all three, but they are on my “I need to finish these!!” list because, yes, I’d like to cover the trilogy here on Fan Film Factor. I don’t understand the nuances of machinima, but when done well, it can make for a very compelling sotrytelling medium.

          4. I never made it completely through all three, but they are on my “I need to finish these!!” list because, yes, I’d like to cover the trilogy here on Fan Film Factor. I don’t understand the nuances of machinima, but when done well, it can make for a very compelling storytelling medium.

    2. …i agree with greg.

      in fact, i think what we are seeing with discovery, and definitely with nu-trek, is that TPTB are purposely trying to negate / undermine the positive legacy of REAL Star Trek =(

      1. Not purposefully. That gives them too much credit for thinking and planning this out. I suspect there’s a lot of “best guessing” going on…and silent prayer. 🙂

        1. I don’t think it’s deliberate either. I simply note that we have become a vastly different society and our response to Trek is vastly different than it was even just a couple of decades ago. (My God I feel old right now…)

  19. Likewise, Greg and Jonathan. Just had my birthday a few weeks ago. Turned 68.

Comments are closed.