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.

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Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 1)

(NOTE FROM JONATHAN – I’ve decided to take a two-part break from fan films to answer the question I keep getting asked: “What do you think about the new Star Trek series that’s coming out?”)

Many Trek fans are hotly debating whether or not it was the right move to “modernize” the production design of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY series and put a TV-MA rating on it.  I’ve read passionate posts going back and forth arguing about the new uniform styles not matching those worn by Captain Pike in “The Cage” back in 1965; how the “hairless” Klingons don’t look like the ones we’ve seen on TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise; and why after 50 years we’re only just now finding out that Spock had an adopted human sister!

In my opinion, none of that is the problem.  That’s not where I think CBS has steered the wrong courae, and that’s not what I’ll be discussing in this blog.  I’m actually planning to check out Discovery at some point down the line.  But am I the exception or the rule?

I honestly think I’m going to be the exception, and that CBS made an unwise decision to offer their new series solely through their ALL ACCESS subscription service (at least here in the U.S.).

It’s not that Trek and sci-fi fans aren’t ready for CBS ALL ACCESS—it’s that ALL ACCESS might not quite be ready for the fans!

Let’s discuss…

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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?

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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY vs. THE ORVILLE – Should CBS be worried? (Part 1)

Before I begin, please note that the title of this blog is the question “Should CBS be worried?” and not the statement  “CBS should be worried.”  I’m pondering, not preaching.

Also, I want to mention up front that I personally enjoyed the new trailer for Star: Trek Discovery and am looking forward to at least checking out the new series.  People seem to think I’m just another Discovery hater/detractor.  Not so!  I am very much keeping an open mind.  But I’m not blind to the reality of the situation either, and that’s what this blog is about.

(And yes, I know that this is a site about fan films.  But it’s also a site about Star Trek…and it’s my blog, so I can editorialize whatever I want to.)


Last week, all of the major networks unveiled trailers for shows that will premiere during their upcoming 2017 season.  Naturally, Star Trek fans were eagerly expecting to see their first extended glimpse of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY series…coming to the subscription-based CBS All Access.

What fans weren’t expecting, however, was a new Star Trek-ish series from FOX starring and produced by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) and directed by Iron Man‘s John Favreau.  Titled THE ORVILLE, this new hour-long series looked more like the Star Trek of yore: bright sets, colorful uniforms, chest emblems with division insignia, sleek and over-lit starships (some filmed from actual physical models!), and a token alien species or two with big bumpy foreheads.  The Orville is obviously meant to be a campy tongue-in-cheek comedy, but the production values, sets, costuming, make-up, and visual FX looked like…well…WOW!

For two days, fans were aflutter with comments about this surprise new sci-fi series.  And the comments were nearly all positive, with many Trekkers suggesting that THIS was the Star Trek we’d wanted all along (minus the implied parody, of course), and wondering why CBS just didn’t get it.

Then, last Wednesday, CBS had their turn to say, “Hey, we DO get it…and here’s what OUR new Star Trek will look like.”  But did they really get it?

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With STAR TREK: DISCOVERY delayed, are FAN FILMS needed now more than ever?

discovery-under-constructionHave you ever sat in the audience for something–a concert, a stage play, or a seminar–and there was an unexpected delay?  Maybe there were technical problems, or maybe someone was stuck in traffic.  Whatever the reason, as things took longer and longer to get started, was the audience becoming impatient?

Maybe you were lucky and there was a host or a warm-up act who could keep the audience engaged and entertained during the delay.  Or maybe you weren’t lucky and just sat there waiting…and waiting…and waiting.  Maybe some people even got frustrated and walked out before the show started.

What does any of this have to do with Star Trek: Discovery and fan films?  Glad you asked!

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