Delaying Star Trek: Discovery Means CBS Can’t Boldly Go Into Streaming
When CBS revealed it was making a new Star Trek series late last year, the network didn’t just announce the next chapter in a franchise, it laid out a whole new method for how fans would watch it. Following the pilot’s premiere on CBS, Star Trek: Discovery would be the flagship exclusive show of the network’s bold move into streaming: CBS All Access.
That plan has hit a snag. CBS announced yesterday that Star Trek: Discovery is being delayed from its planned debut in January until May. “The new premiere date is driven by the belief of the creative team that this gives the show the appropriate time for delivery of the highest quality, premium edition of the first new Star Trek TV series in over a decade,” CBS said in a statement. Instead of new Trek, the network said it would debut an as-yet-untitled spin-off of The Good Wife as a CBS All Access exclusive in February of next year.
The Future of All Access
While this doesn’t mean fans should worry about the state of Discovery—CBS gave the franchise to the right showrunner in Bryan Fuller and it is still in pre-production—it does hinder All Access’ ability to kick off 2017 with a marquee show with a built-in viewership. The Good Wife was a highly-acclaimed (until its final years) legal procedural with a loyal following, and CBS also plans to launch a new digital edition of Big Brother when All Access goes online, but neither of those has the heft of a TV show celebrating its 50th anniversary. CBS is entrenched as the number one broadcast network, but it’s also the one with the oldest median viewer age, suggesting the network’s audience may need some help from a major franchise to drive subscribers to the standalone VOD/live streaming service.
Removing Star Trek: Discovery as All Access’ first original narrative series also breaks a pattern set by other Trek series. The franchise has been on the vanguard of TV distribution for decades. Paramount sold Star Trek: The Next Generation into first-run syndication when it couldn’t get enough of a production commitment from the major broadcast networks, a risky move given the high per-episode cost of the series. Voyager was the debut primetime telecast for UPN in 1995, trusted with launching an entirely new television network—one that ultimately couldn’t compete, but still displayed how much faith television executives have in the franchise to front-load viewership numbers.
The best possible scenario for CBS would have been to kick off 2017 with a show that has such a devoted viewership it will follow the franchise almost anywhere, but odds are Trekkers will still boldly go to the network’s streaming service when Discovery premieres in May. And the extra time may mean they get a better show when they do. Until then, though, the network will have to wait a little longer to tout just how many people subscribed to All Access just to go to the final frontier.
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