Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 2)

In yesterday’s blog, while many Star Trek fans are debating uniforms, starships, bridge lighting, hairless Klingons, and adopted human sisters, I decided to look at a much more fundamental question regarding the new Star Trek: Discovery television series.  Was it a good or bad business decision by CBS to make the new show available (at least in the U.S) exclusively via subscription to their ALL ACCESS streaming service?

We already looked at CBS’s decision to target the series to a younger audience, based on a statement made be CBS President and CEO Les Moonves back in May.  This means that the older, more loyal Star Trek fans, “yesterday’s fan-base” as I call them, aren’t the primary target…which is kinda why Discovery isn’t sweating the details in hewing to established Star Trek canon.

Instead, CBS is focusing their attention and hopes on younger viewers who are more likely to subscribe to a brand new streaming video on demand (SVOD) service than the older fans.

Ah, but therein lies the rub!

These younger viewers don’t have an existing, decades-long relationship with Star Trek.  They weren’t watching TOS when it first aired in the 1960s or grew up with it in the 1970s.  They didn’t even watch TNG in the 1980s and 1990s as kids.  All those folks are already pushing 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70!)  CBS is targeting viewers in their 30s or even 20s.  By the time these younger viewers were old enough to watch Star Trek, the ratings for the show had already plummeted and few people were watching at all.

In other words, the vast majority of these young viewers aren’t really Star Trek “fans.”  To them, Discovery is more like a new science fiction show based on an old series that their parents or grandparents used to watch…except this version has cool sets, dazzling VFX, action, adventure, and a TV-MA rating.  And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  I don’t fault CBS for choosing to make the new series young and hip.

But they made another choice to put the new series exclusively on the ALL ACCESS subscription service here in the U.S.  And today, I want to look at some of the consequences of that decision—not from the perspective of an angry fan (which I’m not; I actually want the new series to succeed), but as a business analyst.

What Does ALL ACCESS Really Have To Offer?

If you subscribe to, say, Netflix, you’ve got a seemingly endless parade of nearly any genre of filmed entertainment: action, comedy, drama, romance, horror, sci-fi, children’s programming…just to name a few.  But despite the long list of TV series and specials that ALL ACCESS provides, CBS is still limited in what they have to offer—pretty much only shows from their own “vault.”

Remember that, by targeting the younger viewer, CBS is trying to attract a “fan” who is NOT really a Star Trek fan yet (since we tend to skew older).  So who is this viewer?  For me, it’s really simple:

CBS needs sci-fi fans.

After all, Discovery is a science fiction show.  My non-geek, lawyer wife isn’t going to watch Discovery—she’ll be more attracted to the legal drama and sexual eye-candy of The Good Fight (CBS ALL ACCESS’ only other original programming at the moment).  That show’s targeted viewership skews mainly female, and many aren’t really sci-fi fans, so they probably aren’t going to cross-pollinate into Discovery…despite the lead character on the new Trek series being a female.  (Yeah, that casting decision wasn’t an accident, folks.)

So in order to create an audience for Star Trek: Discovery, CBS has to rely on attracting younger sci-fi fans who don’t have a pre-existing connection with or loyalty to Star Trek.  But does ALL ACCESS really give these viewers their money’s worth with what it has to offer?

Hmmmm…

ALL ACCESS offers classic television like I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, and The Brady Bunch.  It offers Frasier, Cheers, Wings, and many other comedies and dramas.  In other words, it offers a bunch of stuff that’s available elsewhere and people watch when there’s nothing else on TV.  You flip through channels, find an episode of Taxi you don’t remember, and you veg out and watch it.  This isn’t really a “valuable” offering for ALL ACCESS.

The NFL?  Maybe.  I like football.  Of course, I usually watch it on Sundays anyway.  It’s not like I can get it ONLY from ALL ACCESS.  The Emmys, Tonys, and Grammys?  I can watch those on regular broadcast TV and don’t really feel like enduring them again years later.  60 minutes and Face the Nation from years or decades ago?  Not unless I’m writing a term paper for a political science course!

Instead of looking at everything ALL ACCESS has to offer, let’s look at what the target sci-fi fan wants to actually see…in other words: science fiction.  What does ALL ACCESS have to offer in that category?

There’s 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone plus all the older Star Trek series (which are also on Netflix).  Beyond that, however…um, not much.  The short-lived Halle Berry series Extant is up there, plus Under the Dome, the original Twin Peaks, and Salvation…none of which are really “pure” sci-fi.

So if you’re a young science fiction fan in the U.S. thinking of “cutting the cord”…then you’re subscribing to ALL ACCESS mainly for Discovery (and maybe The Big Bang Theory).  And will that be enough to justify your $6 or $10/month?

CBS thinks so.  I don’t.  Soon enough we’ll find out who was right.

One Episode, One Chance…

Some shows are a hit from day one.  Others take time to build an audience.  The Big Bang Theory didn’t start off as CBS’s number one show.  But after a few seasons, word began to spread, and more and more people tuned in.

Building an audience through good word-of-mouth will be more of a challenge for Star Trek: Discovery.  Even if it generates lots of positive buzz, people can’t just change the channel or set a DVR timer and check it out later.

Of course, if someone from CBS were here in my home at the moment, they’d surely say, “Okay, Mr. Smarty-pants!  What about House of Cards?  That was a show exclusive to Netflix, and it still built an audience over time!”  True, but much of that audience was already subscribed to Netflix, and all they needed to do was click on “House of Cards” and start watching it.  And later, when the show was a hit at the Emmys, more people subscribed not only to check out this hot new series but also because of everything else that Netflix had to offer.

As I said, CBS doesn’t have nearly as much to offer.  It’s not that ALL ACCESS has nothing.  It’s just that Netflix has SO much more…nearly every genre you can name.  For some people, House of Cards was the last piece of the puzzle in convincing them to finally take the plunge and subscribe to Netflix.  Star Trek: Discovery pretty much has to be the entire puzzle for a potential subscriber…and that’s asking a LOT.

The other challenge is that Discovery has just one realistic chance to be “awesome.”  Unlike Netflix, which already had 44 million subscribers when House of Cards debuted—and those were the people who spread the word—ALL ACCESS only has a reported 2 million subscribers at present (possibly less; they don’t exactly shout the number from the rooftops).  So the only opportunity that Star Trek: Discovery has to be watched by 10 or 20 million people and impress them is when its first episode airs for “free” after NFL Football on Sunday, September 24 on CBS.  If that first episode doesn’t blow people away, I’m not exactly sure there’s much of a second chance for a mass amount of people to see it…at least not in America.

Outside of the U.S. and Canada, Discovery will be available on Netflix, which does have many more subscribers than ALL ACCESS.  So they might end up being the word-of-mouth.  But it’s unclear whether a show that’s popular everywhere except America is going to also attract American audiences.  And of course, that all presupposes that Discovery is a hit internationally…which is far from a guarantee.

And there’s A LOT Of Competition!

The last point I want to hit is the fact that Discovery not only has to overcome a lack of breadth and depth of the CBS offerings on ALL ACCESS, plus a limited potential for word-of-mouth growth, but the new series is also facing off against quite a staggering amount of quality TV science fiction that is carried on regular network and cable television.  Among the sci-fi and genre shows that do NOT require a special subscription are The Expanse, Doctor Who, all the stuff on the CW, The Walking Dead, Gotham, Lucifer, Preacher, the soon-to-debut The Orville and The Gifted…just to name a tiny few.  And if you already subscribe to Netflix or HBO or STARZ, then you’ve got the Marvel shows, Game of Thrones, Westworld, American Gods, and a veritable all-you-can-watch buffet of other genre offerings.

Is Discovery just another brick in an ever-growing wall of quality sci-fi offerings?  If so, then why pay a $6 or $10 monthly subscription to watch it when so much other great stuff is so readily available?

Already, I’ve seen a number of comments from the younger generation saying, “Oh, man, not ANOTHER subscription!”  Many viewers (young and old) are already paying for Netflix, HBO, and possibly one or two other premium services.  If you’re a sci-fi fan, Netflix and HBO make sense to have.  But does ALL ACCESS?

And remember that Netflix releases its content in season-long batches all at once.  Not only is ALL ACCESS not doing that, but the 15 episodes of Discovery won’t even air over a continuous span of 15 consecutive weeks.  So a Discovery viewer will either have to subscribe for at least 5 or 6 straight months, or start and stop and then restart their subscription, or simply wait for the first season to complete before subscribing for one month, binge-watching the season, and then canceling.  Only the first option makes any decent revenue for CBS.

In the end, I believe CBS and the other networks (possibly with the exception of Disney) are simply getting into the game too late.  They want to be “the next Netflix” at almost the same price point while offering significantly less content for the typical young (and restless?) sci-fi viewer.  And add to that the fact that $6/month still gets you 12 minutes of commercials per HOUR!!!  (Yeah, still scratching my head over that one.)

So while, in my heart of hearts, I do sincerely want Star Trek: Discovery to succeed, I just think CBS has painted themselves into a Kobayshi Maru no-win scenario for their new series by putting it on ALL ACCESS.

Hey, I hope I’m wrong.

And that’s pretty much the point of this editorial.  If I’m wrong, great.  CBS won’t care what I say.  But if Discovery fails to bring in 2 million new subscribers, there will potentially be an argument made by CBS that Star Trek‘s popularity has simply run its course.  I want an alternative narrative circulating out there that maybe it wasn’t that Star Trek is finally dead as a franchise but rather that CBS set the new series up for an inevitable failure by placing it on ALL ACCESS.

We’ll see what happens soon…

32 thoughts on “Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 2)”

  1. As one of the old farts who watched TOS when it first aired in the ’60’s I do have the tech to stream on my current TV (But I had to buy and set up a Roku streaming stick as my blue-ray could only do Netflix and not HBO/Starz). But as you point out, my usage for Starz/HBO was only to watch Black Sails/GOT during their season, then cancel the subscription as soon as the season was over. With free starting months I only paid for one month each of Starz and HBO, and when Outlander’s or GOT’s new season starts I’ll wait until all episodes are available before restarting those subscriptions for just one month each.

    But after watching GOT & Black Sails on streaming commercial free there’s no way I’m going to 1) pay $6 a month for streaming WITH commercials or 2) watch each episode the instant they become available to stream. It’s cheaper to wait until the season is complete, subscribe for the one month without commercials, binge watch the entire season to retain continuity within the one month subscription window, and then cancel the subscription when I’m done.

    I only carried over the subscription for the recent season of GOT because my wife wanted to see it, but I shut it down as soon as the last episode aired. So far I’ve seen nothing on Disco that’s be worth seeing it as soon as each episode ‘aired.’ CBS hasn’t earned my trust yet.

    So I’ll wait for word of mouth on Disco before committing to watch it. There’s lots of other things to watch while we wait for the season to finish. Then we’ll see if it’s really worth it.

    1. I suspect there might be a lot of folks out there like you, David. If that happens, then when CBS announces at the end of the first season of Discovery that they now have 4 million subscribers to ALL ACCESS, the question will then become: how many of those canceled after just one month?

  2. I’ll maybe watch the broadcast freebie. Then ignore the rusha rusha rusha reviews. The political season has taught me, tune out the clowns that aggravate for attention. I’ve got better things to do.

    I bet they’ll show re-runs on CBS sooner or later, maybe even a freebie catchup marathon, if it doesn’t go straight to Netflix in the US after broadcast. I’ll maybe maybe DVR that.. but certainly won’t watch it live and the thought of it stuff to the gills with ads.. no thank you.

    But nothing advertised so far makes me even want to consider the effort or aggravation of signing up for yet another online service.. the signups and fragmentation of the cord cutters market has become so onerous and loathesome.. this cord cutter is become a cord nothing.. just tired of it all.. if its not convenient.. I’ll catch it in re-runs after they stop making them and its in the online binge bin at Amazon. I even dropped my Netflix account a month ago.. why bother when I grew up seeing it all.. the re-runs seem to move so slow now that I know how they all end.

    I’m old too.. but I think a lot of youngsters feel the same way.. this generation of movie mavens has no clue how disconnected and difficult they are making things.. just to consume their wares.

    Broadcast is killing itself with Ads.. and online is killing itself with Account management and billing complexity.

    Its like the Cisco said way back in the 21st Century in DS9.. people just got tired of TV and found something better to do with their lives.

  3. I’m from the target demographic, so I’m going to put my 2 cents. Granted, I’m one of the few of my generation with a long standing love of Star Trek, and I have a bias against Discovery. I’m also however a general scifi fan and nerd. I know my tribe fairly well.

    There’s another factor which needs to be discussed: Piracy. My generation graduated university/college with a large debt to pay off (except those lucky enough to be born in certain European countries), and in the Western world, a poor job market with stagnant wages. People are often taking pay cuts when inflation is considered. We don’t have a lot of discretionary spending power. We’re also very technically literate as you said. We can easily and quickly download or stream practically anything we want to watch for free. Someone who did subscribe to All Access will “rip” the show, and then it will be released into the wild. Why pay for a show you’re not sure you’ll like if you can get it for free? I for one don’t believe piracy has as big an impact on profits as the media corps think, as one pirate download does not necessarily mean a lost sale as plenty of people won’t bother if the option to see a show for free is taken away. It can’t be denied though that piracy has some impact. Even people who end up liking ST… I mean Discovery might not bother paying to see it.

    Then we come to the tastes of my generation of sci-fi fans. I think a good number of us are getting a bit sick of dark sci-fi. It has it’s place and shows like the Battlestar Galactica remake (which in many ways started the trend) are still well loved, but it’s come to saturate the market. A dark show like The Expanse can still do well, but it needs to be well above average or have something else going for it to catch on. The Expanse seems to be popular for its relatively realistic portrayal of space travel and living in space moreso than it’s dark tone.

    Putting aside my own personal dislike for Discovery, I just don’t see it doing well for the above reasons as well as those you have raised. The Orville on the other hand I think has done a better job taking the pulse of my generation. It’s only a question of how much better it will do. Seth Macfarlane is generally well liked by younger people. Many of his fans will give the show a try while it will also drag in curious sci-fi fans AS WELL as old school Trek fans.

    1. I actually wrote four paragraphs about piracy and then decided to leave them out, Chris. The reason is that I in no way wanted to be accused of endorsing, condoning, or encouraging such a practice. We got enough accusations of doing that on the SMALL ACCESS group! Yes, piracy will happen. Not in this house, of course. I’ll be getting an Apple TV this month and subscribing to ALL ACCESS at some point just because I do want to check out the new series. But I think I’m more of the exception than the rule.

      1. I understand and I thought that might be why you didn’t bring it up. It sucks how a person’s words and intentions can be twisted, especially in this text based medium.

  4. CBS can always decide to rerun the episodes after the season ends on broadcast to see if that improves things consistently. ALL-ACCESS doesn’t need to stay a fatal flaw.

    The final solution may be ALL-ACCESS shows episodes first and broadcast lags by a few weeks/months.

    1. That could potentially help build up some more word of mouth, but it also runs the risk of “Well, I’ll just wait for the free reruns rather than subscribe now.” I’m not sure that’s CBS’s best solution. But who knows?

  5. I do believe that you have touched on one of the main faults in CBS’ logic:

    Yes, the key audience is primarily the new viewers who may or may not be familiar with the previous Treks… That being the case, is having access to the older Treks even a thing for them?

    While the older Trek viewers might see the library of previous Trek shows as a bonus, they’re not the ones that Discovery is tooled toward (and have almost uniformly taken a dislike to it).

    Gotta wonder what CBS was thinking….. and what they were smoking.

    1. I can’t say I disagree. I mean if you’re going to make something like Star Trek look more advanced, then, fine, set it further into the future. Stop trying to make the prequels look more advanced than the future (present). Also, I get it CBS is trying to appeal to a new, younger generation, but that doesn’t mean they have to exclude the older generation. There’s a balance to be found here, and sadly, it seems like CBS didn’t even try to find that balance. :/

  6. I’m one of “them thar” old fogies but one whose career was as a geek in various IT roles so I’m not taken aback by tech, even 2017 tech.

    But in spite of my age I agree with the young fogie who opined: “Oh, man, not ANOTHER subscription!”. I’m not going to sign up for a bunch of subscriptions especially one where I pay $10/month to watch commercials.

    And as TheJwillis wrote, why pay for it now when I could watch it later. And if CBS chooses to never put it on free TV, well then life is full of choices and there’s a lot of SF around as you pointed out.

    1. Actually, $10/month is the commercial-free option. $6/month and you have to watch 12 minutes of ads per hour (without being able to fast-forward through them).

      Does that change you mind at all, Jerry? 🙂

      And what’s more interesting is the question: if you, as a die-hard fan who is “plugged in” still aren’t going to pay to watch it, then why would a young viewer with no deep connection to Trek pay to do so?

      1. “And what’s more interesting is the question: if you, as a die-hard fan who is “plugged in” still aren’t going to pay to watch it, then why would a young viewer with no deep connection to Trek pay to do so?”

        It all goes back to HOW GOOD IS THE STORY. People will watch because the characters and their interactions draw in the viewership, not because it just so happens to be on a platform that the younger generation is using at the moment.

        One of these days CBS might actually figure that out. (WHY did CBS get so upset with Axanar? I think it’s because the story was just plain GOOD.)

        Then again, maybe not.

        1. I think that it was more of the case that Axanar wasn’t “just plain good” but that it was BETTER. As I understand it, the ‘Vulcan scene’ was so good that CBS were suddenly very, very worried…. and they panicked.

          1. I wouldn’t say “panic.” Not at all, really.

            I now know much more of the mindset that CBS and Paramount had when the Axanar lawsuit was first filed. And John Van Citters was not misleading anyone when he said it was a “space race.” CBS and Paramount were already concerned when fan films started taking in crowd-funding in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When Axanar crossed the million dollar threshold, that triggered a series of discussions that included, among other things, looking at the Vulcan scene and deciding that it looked like it COULD be mistaken for real Star Trek (new Trek produced by the studio) to the casual observer. It wasn’t that Axanar was “better,” only that it looked, at first casual glance, like it COULD have been studio-produced. And to be honest, people at CBS weren’t even paying attention to the acting. It was the VFX, music, costumes, and the simple fact that Gary Graham was reprising his role of Soval.

            Had Axanar simply raised the $1.2 million and not produced anything, there likely would not have been a lawsuit (you don’t sue over a few hundred dollars of unlicensed coffee). But once the Vulcan scene was out there, CBS and Paramount (well, actually, Paramount–but that’s another story that I’m not supposed to know) decided they had a really obvious “bullet” to load into the “gun” of a legal complaint. It was, as far as Paramount was concerned (CBS did not initially want to sue–that switched by May of 2016) enough to justify what they believed would be a slam-dunk copyright infringement lawsuit. The proof was right there. These guys had made Star Trek without permission. Real Star Trek with a million dollar budget…and they were raising more! Any judge and jury would see the obvious problem with than in seconds…or so the studios thought.

            It was, pretty much, the crossing of the million dollar line that was the catalyst. The rest–including the quality of the Vulcan scene–was just the other dominoes falling. Once the suit was filed–and later amended–other things were thrown in: the “for profit” studio, the unlicensed merchandise, the “salary,” etc. But at the very beginning, it wasn’t panic so much as a feeling of, “Okay, this has gone too far! We need to stop this space race before fans start making $10 million Star Trek ‘fan’ films…or $100 million!!!”

            What I also found out recently is that, had Axanar not crossed the million dollar threshold first and Renegades had instead (they were already up to about $750,000 at the time), then Renegades would have been the production to get sued. As it was, the guidelines were structured specifically to castrate Renegades (Axanar was already off the chessboard) and a few of the other big fan productions.

            But I would NOT use the word “panic” in any way…not after what I’ve been told. You can, potentially, use the word “concerned.” Even “pissed off” isn’t exactly accurate…at least not in December of 2015. By May, when CBS took the lead, yes, the word “pissed” was definitely in play. But that’s more because Alec had the gall to lawyer up and fight the lawsuit in a big way, and wasn’t rolling over to accept a very unfair and Draconian settlement offer. (And no, it wasn’t the same settlement they reached eight months later…not even close.) By then, the studios (well, mainly CBS) were absolutely pissed off and out for blood. But back in December of 2015, it was more of a standard studio approach: threaten to sue the defendant into financial ruin and wait for them to pee in their pants and come back begging for mercy. That usually works because people don’t want to lose their houses, cars, and life savings. Alec had none of the above, so he fought back.

            But trust me, the studios were never worried that Axanar or any fan film was “better” than what the studios were producing…only that the casual viewer might mistake the fan-produced stuff for something the studios produced, and Paramount and CBS did not want the potential for that confusion to reach the marketplace.

  7. It’s a shame really… Many of us have been fans our whole lives. I remember seeing a season 3 episode on our B&W TV. Later in Jr High, I was one of those who watched it everyday after school. I also remember walking to the local library to watch Star Trek with the Fan club on a 35mm Projector. In my room I had More than one of the AMT Enterprise Kits. and the others as well The Spock kit and klingon and Romulan kits.. In my 20’s I met Jimmy Doohan at an autograph session at the airport. (When actors still did personal appearances) later I saw Takai at one of our first conventions here. Where he talked about the possibility of a Capt Sulu Series. And possibly being in a Bridge over the River Kwai remake. I’ve met Nimoy, Shatner, and Deforrest Kelley I was there when Star Trek was 2 Episodes for $20. on VHS. I have a pretty good collection of Trek action figures Dating back to the Mego days. I’ve read my share of novels I still have the original Star Trek novels by James Blish. as well as the Gold Key comics. So for them to say I am not the target audience. Is ridiculous. CBS has done a lot of stupid things with trek since they took it over. The biggest of which is singling out the American Audience for price gouging. And telling their real target demographic (the loyal Star Trek Fan) that they don’t matter.

    1. I went jogging with George Takei in Central Park once, but I was on my bike. I still couldn’t keep up with him!

      DeForest Kelly saved my friend’s life.

      I helped a drunk Colm Meaney find his room in a hotel in Baltimore.

      And I directed Majel Barrett doing voice-over for four hours in her living room.

      So yeah, I should be the target demographic, too. 🙂

      1. This is not one upsmanship… Just saying that many of us have long associations, with the show and every reason to want it to succeed – CBS seems bound and determined to shoot itself in the foot, with those that could have been it’s biggest supporters.

  8. The big problem is that Discovery is aiming for the wrong demographic if they want to go pay-to-view. Those in their 20s who will be most likely to watch STD are those who are well educated but burdened down with student loan debts, low paying entry level jobs, and trying to make ends meet taking care of their newly growing families. These people see their discretionary money quickly dry up just taking care of the basics and quickly learn to be careful with what they spend their small entertainment budgets on. All Access will have STD, true, but what else do they offer them? Old reruns of shows that aired before they were born and have no interest in. In the battle for the online subscription service, Netflix beats out All Access by a country mile.

    So who could afford yet another pay-to-view service? Those people in their middle 40s and up. Their kids have begun to leave home and live their own lives, their student debts tend to be paid off by now, their jobs are better paying, and now they have a lot more cash to spend for entertainment. But CBS has already given the big middle finger to those people by the very decisions they made as far as the direction the show will be taking. So these fans will be content to sit back and watch their reruns of the previous shows on their DVDs/Blu Rays/downloads and not bother to get emotionally invested in STD because it is not invested in them. Star Trek content providers have not made this bad an error ever, even when NBC cancelled the original show TWICE.

    And to top it off, they have gotten hostile towards fan produced projects. The only things that kept Star Trek going during the first Dark Age of the 70s and kept the fans around for the movies jump start to the franchise. If you can’t provide anything to keep the fans interested and do your best to kill what they are doing to keep it going, you are shooting yourself in the foot financially. And this may not be a wound that Trek can recover from for a long time.

  9. If you aren’t trying to attract Star Trek fans why put the show in the Star Trek Universe??
    All your doing is gaining the restrictions of the old IP, and limiting your creative team.
    Just create your own and go from there.

  10. OK so let’s start with this friendly statement:

    “These younger viewers don’t have an existing, decades-long relationship with Star Trek. They weren’t watching TOS when it first aired in the 1960s or grew up with it in the 1970s. They didn’t even watch TNG in the 1980s and 1990s as kids. All those folks are already pushing 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70!) CBS is targeting viewers in their 30s or even 20s. By the time these younger viewers were old enough to watch Star Trek, the ratings for the show had already plummeted and few people were watching at all.”

    Of course the younger viewers (in most cases) don’t have long relationship with Star Trek. IF they are in their 20’s or even early 30’s hey still can develop a loving relationship, yet you are IMPLYING they don’t or didn’t have the time to watch. Ratings and the ability to watch have nothing to do with one another. Star Trek in some form is always in reruns some where, most of it can be found online through various means. IF we take TOS for example, it had far more viewers in reruns than in it’s initial run on TV.

    “In other words, the vast majority of these young viewers aren’t really Star Trek “fans.” To them, Discovery is more like a new science fiction show based on an old series that their parents or grandparents used to watch…except this version has cool sets, dazzling VFX, action, adventure, and a TV-MA rating. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I don’t fault CBS for choosing to make the new series young and hip.”

    So your saying you know who are and are not fans of the show. You are assigning attributes and generalizations to them as a means of discrediting Discovery as a Star Trek series.

    Also let’s get real as Disney is going to pull all of their live action programming from Netflix.

    If you think you can discredit Discovery by discrediting everything around it, that’s not sound reasoning.

    That’s looking for a reason for it to fail without understanding WHY the change to streaming is very important.

    1. I’m not LOOKING for a reason for Discovery to fail, I’m suggesting an explanation for its poor performance if it does, indeed, fail to deliver the expected/hoped-for 2 million subscribers. As I said at the end, I want there to be another narrative circulating if Discovery doesn’t deliver…something that isn’t simply, “Well, I guess Star Trek has finally run its course.” If that narrative triumphs at CBS, the Trek really will be dead. And none of us fans want that.

      1. It’s almost at or has exceeded 2 million viewers. (to be precise it’s at 1,875,000 +/- 5,000 subscribers on its own) At it’s current rate of growth it gets about 350,000-375,000 new subscribers every 3 months. Mind you as the content grows the numbers of new subscribers will be added accordingly.

        Trek’s been around 51 years and to even entertain the notion that Discovery could kill it is a bit of a stretch. Especially with the CBS AA app on your phone or tablet, that means NEW Trek is where ever you go because you have it in your pocket.

        1. CBS has left the question of the 2 million subscribers without two important details:

          1) Are those 2 million subscribers RIGHT NOW or have two million people subscribed SO FAR? If the latter, then the second question:

          2) How many have canceled…and what is the percentage of attrition?

          Also, Charles, I mentioned in another comment response the concept of “the bungee” effect. You describe 350-375K new subscribers every three months. But is that slope typical or atypical? Sales of cell phones started out slow and then had explosive growth before settling back to a more moderate grown rate. Is ALL ACCESS about to hit explosive growth or has it already had its explosive growth?

          We don’t know the answer now, but we likely will within the next year…assuming CBS tells us. If they don’t, well, that’s kind of an answer, too.

      2. Or…. more optimistically….. even if CBS does eventually decide that, for them, “Trek is dead”, it’s more likely that they’ll try to make some money off of it by selling it to someone else, like Disney (as an example).

        Personally, I’d rather watch it [Trek] on NBC, anyway (it wouldn’t cost me anything and there’s a sense of ‘coming home’ with that.

        Regardless, I’d still think that there’s some life in the old girl (am I quoting Scotty?)

  11. Makes good sense to me could care less about discovery, I already have dish network and Netflix and I’ll be dam if I pay for one crappie show and a ton of wothless reruns that are everywhere on satallite tv. The way I look at it if your show is that good it sould be on free broadcast tv. If the rating is a problem put it on in a later time slot that’s what fx did for Sons of Anarchy it it was their highest rated show. And after the hell they gave the fan films like anaxar they can take their new show and stick it up there collective butts, it’s gonna be a one season flop anyway!

  12. “And what’s more interesting is the question: if you, as a die-hard fan who is “plugged in” still aren’t going to pay to watch it, then why would a young viewer with no deep connection to Trek pay to do so?”

    Over the years I became less “plugged in” because of high quality stories like Babylon 5, for example and Star Wars for another. With Axanar, I became “unplugged” and with being told to pay to watch endless commercials or pay more to have none, I don’t care much any more.

    So another way of answering your question is that CBS needs to “hit one out of the park” in the first episode and build an extremely fast buzz about how great the show is. I’m skeptical.

    1. Yeah, we’ll see if that happens. If it doesn’t, will CBS broadcast a couple more episodes on their regular network to expose the show a bit more? Or maybe it’ll do gangbusters. Only time will tell.

  13. Jonathan once again thank you for your excellent analysis.

    I think that you may off missed out on a couple of significant factors which will make STD task of attracting all these new subscribers even more of an uphill battle. They have been touched on in the remarks and I would say they apply more to the old fogey long term fans but would still have a negative effect on the hip young new fans presumably with man buns that CBS hope to attract.

    Firstly and probably the lesser factor is the Axanar effect. I know Alex Peters and his team does encourage people to view STD but CBS and Paramount have effectively established themselves as the enemy in many fans eyes and not only that but an enemy who won and destroyed what would of been an excellent film. Note not an excellent fan film but one which would of been better than many of the established ST Movies. Yes it is perhaps cutting your own nose off to spite your face but I feel there are many who just wont watch.

    Secondly and more importantly to the new viewers they hope to attract, is basically the massive amount of incompetence that has gone into the production so far. It was announced for January then April? then well sometime we want to get it right and now it is coming out after a nine month delay. The showrunner and only person who knew what Star Trek was about was fired and the only reason they continued was the massive amount Netflix had already paid. Leaving aside the lack of established Canon “Fake Canon” which would only be important to established fans. The potential customers have already seen this played out in the news. It will only serve to discourage the hipsters millennials or whatever you are calling them these days (Snowflakes?) from signing up for the show.

    Not a good time to be an CBS All Access Executive my advice to them is get your CV out and update it. However given their actions in the last year or so I fear they may just be too busy imbibing whatever really really good drugs they are on to do so.

    1. Perhaps a little overly harsh, Glenn. I doubt any heads will be rolling at CBS, as they are well aware of what an uphill battle they are facing. It’s one of the reasons Les Moonves put Star Trek on All Access in the first place: the service needed a dilithium-powered boost to grow and expand. If Trek can’t do it, other series have now been announced. As I said in the article, it might simply be that All Access just isn’t ready to be competitive yet and needs more content to attract (and keep) a wider audience.

      As for Axanar, as much as I am an Axanar supporter, I doubt Axanar will have any noticeable negative impact on Discovery. Alec himself is hosting a viewing party for the premiere later on this month. I’m planning to watch the new series, too. We’re two of the strongest Axanar proponents and most likely to have a chip on our shoulders when it comes to CBS. While some Axanerds might have enough of a problem with CBS that they’ll boycott Disco just out of spite or anger, my suspicion is that number is in, maybe, the thousands at most. When CBS needs 2 million subscribers, even 10,000 boycotters is only half of one percent…little more than a rounding error to them.

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