Two things happened last week that could potentially affect the future of live-action Star Trek…and not in a good way. The first is that, at 12:01am on May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) labor union, representing 11,500 writers, went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The last such strike happened in 2007-2008 and lasted 100 days.
Remember that number, because it’s important, and I will discuss it shortly.
The following morning, Paramount Global—which owns CBS, Nickelodeon, and the Paramount movie studio…and holds the rights to Star Trek—announced its earnings to shareholders for the first quarter of 2023. The news wasn’t good. By the close of the NASDAQ on that same Wednesday afternoon, Paramount share prices had dropped more than $6 (or upwards of 28%) from the previous day…which is a huge loss for investors and in market capitalization for the company.
Now, before anyone jumps up and starts blaming ALEX KURTZMAN for this, the bad earnings statement is not his fault. In fact, Paramount+ added 4.1 million new streaming subscribers during the first quarter, reaching a total of 60 million worldwide. While that’s certainly less than the 160 million subscribers internationally for Disney+, the latter has just experienced a slight drop in the most recent quarter while Paramount+‘s subscriber base has continued a steady growth. The issue for Paramount isn’t viewership. Instead, there’s what CEO BOB BAKISH called a perfect storm of “peak streaming investment intersect(ing) with fiscal ad softness.” In other words, there’s a scramble at the moment to load up on content for Paramount+ (spending a LOT of money to produce new streaming shows), while at the same time, advertisers aren’t exactly diving in yet to purchase ad time on the streaming service (less revenue).
There are also other systemic problems that Paramount had long before Alex Kurtzman ever got involved with Star Trek, and the movie studio along with CBS have both struggled financially for decades. Most recently, Paramount had only one major theatrical blockbuster hit in 2022 (Top Gun: Maverick) with $718 million gross ticket sales, three movies in the $100 million range, and the rest only in the the tens of millions. (See the full list here.) Granted, all of the Hollywood film studios are struggling at the moment as movie box office revenue is declining worldwide with the rise of streaming services—which is why so many studios like Paramount have been throwing money into launching new projects.
Indeed, that is the main reason that ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global) inked a jaw-dropping $160 million 5-year contract extension with Alex Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout production company. The idea was that Kurtzman would continue bringing out new Star Trek shows through at least 2026. Other streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, AmazonPrime, Apple+, and HBOMax were likewise spending like drunken sailors on content development, and announcements of new series and new seasons of returning series seemed to come almost weekly!
Then a harsh reality set in…Continue reading “Could the WGA WRITERS STRIKE spell TROUBLE for the future of live-action STAR TREK??? (editorial)”