Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 1)

The news seems to be REALLY great for the premiere of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY.  According to a press release quickly and enthusiastically circulated by an exuberant CBS, the premiere of the newest Star Trek TV series has resulted in record-breaking sign-ups for the ALL ACCESS streaming service:

Tonight’s premiere of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY on CBS All Access, the CBS Television Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service, broke a new record for subscriber sign-ups in a single day, eclipsing the previous record held by the 2017 GRAMMY Awards®.

In addition to its single day subscriber sign-up record, CBS All Access experienced its best week and month ever for sign-ups due to the launch of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, the fall kick-off of the NFL ON CBS on the service’s live local feeds and the season finale of BIG BROTHER and the BIG BROTHER LIVE FEEDS.

Also, the free premiere on the regular CBS network was watched by 9.6 million people.

But before people start gulping down too much champagne (although there is certainly reason for celebration), I’d like to mention a few things that CBS and fans should be noting.

Now, I realize this blog is going to sound like a wet blanket, but please make no mistake: I am ABSOLUTELY, SINCERELY HAPPY that so many people liked the new show!  (I personally wasn’t thrilled with it, although I do plan to watch more episodes eventually.)

But I’m also a business strategist trained to look at multiple aspects of a situation.  As I did in my previous blog about Star Trek: Discovery, I want to take a look at the whole picture…which is, of course, impacted significantly by CBS’s decision to offer their new Star Trek series exclusively as a paid streaming video-on-demand service.

So yes, the news is definitely good for CBS.  But it might be a little too soon to consider the game won…

First, my sincere apologies for having to use the “O” word, but we simply can’t ignore The Orville, as it serves not simply as a parody of Star Trek (or an homage…call it what you will) but also an ALTERNATIVE to Star Trek that is available for free and without the need to subscribe to a separate streaming service.

Not that things are going all that smoothly for Seth MacFarlane’s pet project at the moment.  After an incredibly strong post-NFL debut on FOX three weeks ago—where 8.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere of The Orville—ratings dropped by 50% when its third episode moved to its new Thursday night time slot.  So only 4 million people watched The Orville last week.  We won’t know until Friday whether this is the start of a disastrous downward trend, the “new normal,” or simply a ratings hiccup.

However, as a comparison, CBS is hoping that Star Trek: Discovery will attract 2 million new subscribers to ALL ACCESS, raising their total to 4 million subscribers by 2020.  So in two years, CBS hopes to RISE to a level of viewership for Discovery equal to the number that The Orville DROPPED TO after falling 50%.  Think about that for a moment.  Done?  Okay, moving on…

Now, the fact that there were record sign-ups Sunday night (and that whole week) is actually not really news.  The real news would have been if there had NOT been record sign-ups!  Indeed, that news would have been devastating—for fans, for CBS, and for everyone in their marketing department who would have likely been fired on Monday morning.

That is to say, when CBS puts so many eggs into a single basket—$120 million in production budget, tens of millions in advertising, huge online social media campaigns, big Hollywood blue-carpet premieres—heck, you’d BETTER get record sign-ups!  And so they did.  Yay.

But what exactly does that mean…”highest sign-up day ever”?  There’s a lot that CBS is NOT telling us…most notably, the actual NUMBER of sign-ups.  Based on the current 2 million subscribers and the fact that ALL ACCESS has been around about 2 years, they’re probably averaging 3,000 new subscribers a day.  Of course, it’s ridiculous to think that new subscriptions would be coming in at the same amount each day.  So naturally, there will be special events (like the GRAMMY Awards®) when sign-ups would spike.  But does that mean 10,000 in one day?  100,000?  A million?

Now, if CBS had just gotten a MILLION new sign-ups Sunday night, I would have expected that number to have been plastered all over their press release.  The fact that it wasn’t, and that CBS continues to be reluctant to share hard data (unlike, for example, Apple with sales of iPhones), leads me to believe that the sign-up number was more likely in the hundreds of thousands…still good, but that still leaves a way to go to get to 2 million.

And that also raises the question: how DO they get to 2 million subscribers now that the “spike” is over?  Sure, it’s been a record-breaking day/week…but what now?

Tomorrow, we take a look at the four things Star Trek: Discovery needs to live long and prosper.  Does it have all four?  If not, what’s missing…and is it a fatal flaw?

47 thoughts on “Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 1)”

      1. Perhaps on topic for that… perhaps not, but the figures from “illegal” downloads from Pirate’s Bay listed the first hour (episode #1) as the #9 highest download while the second (episode #2) dropped down to #14…

        So, when the viewer base among those downloading it illegally is falling, that has got to sting for CBS.

  1. Well everyone need to here this?, my friend saw the t.v. show sunday and he told me that Netflix will not see or get no one or maybe get some people to pay to see the t.v. show but i will not pay to see it. But here is what you need to know that the person who did the t.v. show he used part of jj work and it is not no real star trek t.v. show. CBS and Parmount will not see a but a little money from the tv show. It was not in the usa, it was filmed in Canada and i saw the 2:39 min film tiser. And i did not like it and it don’t make much. So if you want to view the paid tv show just wait and you will see for your self then but i will never pay for it.

  2. Jonathan, the proof will come also at the end of the month and the end of the season as to how many people KEEP All Access as opposed to canceling. You can bet they won’t publish THOSE numbers.

  3. We’ll have to wait & see. We’ll have to see how well episode three and onward do in the ratings. I understand next week’s will be a bottle show.

  4. Jonathan,

    I don’t think the comparison to make is The Orville, but rather Stargate during it’s Showtime days.

  5. I’ll put it this way, my dislikes far outnumbered my likes! I won’t bore you with the withering critique, but it’s not going to live long, let alone prosper, when many of the cast decide to politicize the show, and troll long time fans of Trek, namely the new captain.

  6. I loved the show. I was just disappointed that I could not see the rest of the show. I do not have the internet and I just noticed it is not available yet on iTunes bummer. I guess I will wait till it comes out on dvd next year.

  7. Well…I have subscribed to cravetv(carrying Discovery here in Can.)…just to watch this show. No complaints, I very much enjoyed the show and look forward to more.

    Still not sold on the Klingon new look…but it is what they have decided to go with.

    I also enjoy Orville very much and watch that (my kids enjoy it and it is somewhat family friendly). Being on regular tv, I have a harder time being able to watch this than Discovery ( I dont run my life anymore to TV time slots).

  8. I’m not at all confident that Discovery will survive a full season, or CBS wouldn’t have Nicholas Meyer’s back-up production as, well, back-up. If I had to hazard a guess, the chief reason for putting Discovery behind a paywall is this: It allows the network to hide the actual numbers so they can continue to lie about how popular the show actually is with viewers. After all, if The Orville gets over its rough start and grows in popularity, that’ll be some serious competition for CBS’s show that it can’t afford to have after dumping so much money into it, and if the network can’t match The Orville’s ratings…would you want to go public with low viewer numbers knowing investors might already be thinking about pulling their money?

  9. I found this off the cuff review by a national journalist, who I never suspected to be a Trekie. No name for political reasons.
    “ADDENDA: CBS is attempting to launch a new streaming service with the show Star Trek: Discovery. The pilot aired Sunday, the first time a Star Trek program appeared on a major television network since 1969. (Sorry, Voyager, I said a major television network and the short-lived UPN doesn’t count.) The rest of the episodes only available with a subscription to the new streaming service. Creating a good television series pilot is hard enough; this one faced a supreme degree of difficulty: offer a first hour so thrilling and intriguing that people would pay extra to see the second hour that resolves the cliffhanger.

    I didn’t subscribe; that first hour was awful.

    The protagonist felt like a grab-bag of tropes and clichés: traumatic memories of murdered parents, raised by Vulcans, trying to live up to the high expectations of a stern mentor/father figure, impulsive, but fighting the impulse for revenge against the Klingons. The Science Officer might as well have been named “Kvetching Worrywart” and was insufferable. The captain and first officer kept stepping off the bridge to have confrontations or heart-to-hearts. (This could have been played for laughs if the rest of the crew heard them yelling through the wall. Fox’s Star Trek parody show, The Orville, would have done something like that.) One of the revelations of the first hour is that the Vulcans figured out how to reach peace with the Klingons by relentlessly preemptively attacking them until the Klingons were willing to negotiate, which is . . . either really bold storytelling, or just ignoring everything else Star Trek has shown about Vulcans since the beginning.”

    Wow! And he’s not alone in this either.

    1. You missed one…. Have the show air (on the East Coast) as “time approximate following Sunday Night Football”, which was at 8:48pm. So I and everyone else along the Atlantic seaboard only get to see the first 12 minutes?

      As it turns out, they lost me by the time the opening credits began. However, had that not been the case, those 12 minutes would not have been sufficient to make me want to pay CBS to see more. Just another bad decision from CBS.

  10. Your financial comments were to me a classic example of “nail, meet hammer”. I also wonder how many are paying the $10 no commercial amount versus the pay us and have commercials.

    I hate to have to write this, but you should also look at the stories about how often STD is being pirated for a view on popularity. For example (but much less than I would have expected if it was a runaway hit.)

      1. So, CBS anticipates on forseeable fail with all access and sold it to sub-contractors to do the job. Even if the audience is bad, they will get money from Netflix. It means anyone can produce crap and earn money as long as there is a distributor to pay for it, regardless to the public expectations.
        This is no more show business, it is just business. I won’t bother to see it anywhere, have something else to do…

        1. Well, show business has always been about business. Even the original Star Trek was canceled because of bad ratings. (Turns out they were being measured inaccurately, but that wasn’t discovered until decades later.)

          Look, CBS is trying an experiment with Discovery. They could (and probably should) have just turned over Star Trek to Netflix to produce a new series or five (like Marvel did), but CBS wanted to try to slingshot All Access forward. Personally, I think it was a mistake. But I understand why they wanted to at least try.

  11. I have a number of questions about the CBS numbers in this case. First off how many new subscribers were via the free 30 day to one week trials CBS ALL Access has been advertising for the past few months? How many were actually full paying customers? More importantly how many subscribers cancelled their subscription right after the second episode? There was a number of tweets were people professed to have done exactly that.
    I personally have a wait and see attitude to all this and will not be subscribing to CBS All Access. Yeah, I watched the premiere and the second episode(its good to have friends with more disposable income than you 🙂 ) and greatly enjoyed the show. As Star Trek pilot episodes goes it was uneven in places but was engaging and interesting. Personally I don’t believe for a second the sorry excuse CBS is trying to sell saying that sci-fi shows can’t be done on broadcast television anymore. They can be CBS just doesn’t want to. I also strongly object to CBS launching a streaming service with only 2 new shows and only reruns of old shows to justify the monthly cost. I hope Star trek Discovery is successful I really do but I hope CBS All Access fails because if it succeeds more money for ultimately less entertainment options will surely follow.

    1. I find myself wondering which we might see first–the actual specific numbers of subscriptions to All Access (including cancellations)…or Donald Trump’s tax returns. 🙂

  12. Sure there were record number of sign-ups because of Discovery, but now that it has been watched, how many will delete their accounts. I got it for free in Canada and would have been pretty ticked off if I had paid for it and then watched it. It is really amazing how unimpressed I was with the 2 episodes. Not happy at all.

  13. Watched Disco, and I found it a yawn a minute. While I kind of liked The Orville before, watching Disco just made me love and appreciate The Orville even more. Sure I think The Orville could learn a few things from Disco in terms of production quality, but in terms of everything else The Orville wins hands down. Bright, refreshing and optimistic. With Disco we just get something that no-one seems to have wanted, dark, depressing, and to cap it all off, it doesn’t even fit into the Star Trek universe.

    100 Years since the last skirmish with the Klingons? What happened to Garth? We were promised that the change in Klingons would get explained, yet they showed us all the different factions of the Klingons and they all looked the same. I saw no ENT/TNG/DS9/VOY style Klingons and more importantly I saw no TOS style Klingons. The show doesn’t feel partway between ENT and TOS in terms of hope; the beaming optimism of Kirk and Archer. Holographic viewscreens which didn’t come out until late DS9 yet, they have them there, why all dark and moody, no war footing yet like in Yesterday’s Enterprise. Why tribunal in the dark?

    I was hoping that the trailers had got it wrong, but no, just lots of hammy writing that makes The Orville feel better.

    Oh, and did you take a look at Rotten Tomatoes? 65% for Disco compared with 89% for The Orville. Also you should note that (AFAIK) the ratings you list don’t include DVR viewings as that data takes more time to come in. From what I see so far, Episode 1 pulled 12.2 million viewers; and the second episode came in at 9.8 million viewers. We will have to wait to see how the DVR viewers add in for the 3rd episode, perhaps not until this time next week to see if the falloff in live viewings for the 3rd episode gets offset by DVR viewings, perhaps because of the move to Thursdays, and then as you say whether this represents a trend, a settling, or a blip.

  14. Ya know I’m really trying to give it a fair shake, but their making it so hard with their new & “improved” “klingons”. It makes it really hard to take the show seriously and not just get pissed off and rage quit the show. So I’m gonna try and give it a few more eps. but I have a feeling that it won’t go well.

    1. I wrote in an e-mail how I felt so sorry for the actors playing the Klingons. Imagine trying to act while wearing a medieval suit of knight’s armor with the faceplate closed over every part of your face but your nose. You can barely move your head, and your arms won’t go any higher than your chest. You can’t even bend your elbows. And then, before you go in front of the camera, you realize that all of your lines are in Polish and your don’t speak Polish!

      1. I will try again. My previous response must have been lost in cyber space or maybe the Russians intercepted it via the White House. First off… I’m happy that we have Orville and Discovery and really want both to succeed. My take on the Orville is that it won’t last very long unless there is a vast improvement in the writing… The actors are trying but it’s the writers that need to be replaced while there still is a chance for success. What’s next Fart Jokes? Maybe they should approach the writers from Star Trek Continues… Now that I would pay to see. The first 2 Orville episodes were weak and the 3rd episode was so bad I believe Gene would be rolling in his grave if he had one, screaming don’t compare that crap to my stories. I named it Beavis and Butt Crack but seriously…. Parents allowing their daughter to be mutilated by the state and meekly fighting back. A hermit female writing under an assumed male name and found in a desert alone for most of her life with no hope except her writing. I know Kirk, Picard, Janeway etc would never have stood by and let the state butcher a defenceless infant and to top it all the comparison to circumcision. In Africa and other parts of the world even today thousands and thousands of young girls are butchered and mutilated by having their private parts circumcised. No matter what is used, a futuristic scalpel or a jagged edged meat cleaver… butchering a defenceless child is still butchering. Is this what we want our society to approve of? No more words on this horrible act. This is more than bad writing… Our children are watching and this is what the Orville shows them. it’s cruel and disgusting. I’m now too angry to comment on Discovery except… I liked it from beginning to the end. The acting is strong, the writing very good and visually excellent. There were some problems but this show has a good chance of succeeding and for the cost of a couple of cups of coffee… well worth the price.

        1. Sorry, XMAN, your previous comment never showed up. Thanks for trying again.

          I’m surprised to read your reaction to the third episode of The Orville, “About a Girl.” Everyone else I’ve spoken with about it, and all of the comments I’ve read on Facebook, dozens and dozen of people all thought the episode was top notch and even on a par with some of Star Trek’s better episodes. But hey, that’s why Basin Robbins has 31 flavors, right? 🙂

          I agree in that the Orville’s writers still have to figure some things out. The only consistent complaints I’m hearing about the series is the crude humor. The intelligent humor is often brilliant. The pot and penis jokes are often awkward. As the entire first season has now been filmed (13 episodes), the writers won’t be making any course corrections anytime soon. But I suspect they will, in fact, be granted a second season (unless the ratings continue to tank). So we’ll see what happens.

          BTW, I’m totally against female circumcision, but as a circumcised male myself who chose (with my wife) to have our son circumcised just after his birth, we don’t consider it mutilation at all. Indeed, one of my son’s classmates who was not circumcised at birth might end up having to be circumcised at the age of 7 after all…something that’s traumatizing the parents quite a bit and probably won’t be much fun for their son either. Sometimes, it’s tough having to make these decisions when you’re a parent and your child is too young to be able to chime in.

          So yes, the episode wasn’t filled with perfect analogies because, to be honest, there really aren’t any. We’re a two-gender species. But the questions about when parents can and should make major, life-changing decisions for their offspring…those hit home for me and many other viewers. Even you, it seems.

  15. Thanks for your comments Jonathan. I am Jewish and for the male infant to be circumcised was once a necessary that has turned to being a tradition. In ancient times men carried germs and disease that was passed on to their female partners sexually. It was circumcision and hygiene that changed all that… same as Kosher foods… certain types of meat turned bad quickly because of mostly the heat of the desert and in turn the spoiled meat and dairy infected the consumer. These laws were written down by rabbis and the masses were told that it was the word of god…So the fearful masses obeyed the learned rabbi mostly out of fear and the sight of people dying from unclean meat or spoiled dairy or the mixing of the two. This is the real reasons for circumcision and Kosher Households. Today refrigeration and better medical care makes those laws not necessary however it’s still a law in the books that most Jews follow out of tradition even today they believe it was and still is the word of god. This explanation was told to me in my youth by a very liberal rabbi. Now back to the Orville. I am hopeful for improvement and will watch week to week. As for my previous take on the 3rd episode I’ll chalk it up to poor.. very poor writing, but if this happens again it’s no accident. As I said before there is room for both Orville and Discovery. I enjoyed Discovery because it was the same but very different. As for the Orville I expected so much more and so far all I have gotten was a poor copy of TOS and Next Gen. My wish which will never happen is that Star Trek Continues would enter the realm of TV. I would pay with no complaints to see that show continue.

    1. Oy, with the poodles already!

      Fellow Jew here. Bacon and ham in the fridge. I getcha.

      As for the Orville, we’ll see if they grow up a little or not.

      As for Star Trek Continues, the show is an amazing fan film, and they work really hard. But real television is a whole other level of achievement. STC is a HUGE fish in a small pond. In a big pond, though, they would be tiny.

  16. Responding to your point about The Orville, we were actually pretty happy here with our episode 3 numbers. We came in stronger than Gotham’s 4th season opener, and rose even further in the Live +3 ratings.

    Tomorrow’s numbers will be telling, but the mood is optimistic.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply Orville was in crisis yet…and I did notice that you beat the Gotham lead-in by .1 rating. I was simply trying to illustrate the bigger picture that The Orville LOST the same number of viewers that was CBS’s goal for Discovery to RISE to (4 million). That says a LOT!

        1. Yep, I saw that. Great news, Gabe! And I noticed that its lead-in, “Gotham,” dropped 10% from its debut last week. Bad news for Gotham, but great news that the Orville kept its audience stable!

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