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.