The Good News and Bad News About Star Trek

The news that CBS is bringing Star Trek back to television was sort of a tease. Yes, a new series has been announced, and yes, the first episode will air on the broadcast network, but then it becomes interesting. The rest of the series will air on its digital platform, CBS All Access. So the new Trek will be streaming online, rather than broadcasting over the airwaves or transmitted via cable and satellite.

It's no secret that television as we've known it is fundamentally changing. People are cutting the cord and watching content on mobile devices. Their big screen TV sets at home aren't just receiving broadcast and cable signals -- the traditional lineups have become a potpourri of countless individual programs delivered through Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Amazon Prime, PlayStation Network, and others. Devices such as FireTV and Chromecast are replacing the old cable/satellite set-top boxes for your Smart TVs.

While some might welcome all this as a cost-saving revolution that breaks up the overpriced cable monopoly, such choice might eventually be just as expensive, if not more so, than the old system. CBS All Access, like HBO Go and others, are skipping the middleman and hoping to attract paying audiences directly. How many different monthly subscriptions can the average TV viewer afford?

If CBS Access costs $9.99 a month, will a new, original Star Trek series be enough to make consumers shell out over a hundred dollars a year for it? It sounds like a bargain compared to current bundle package bills, but not if you add the multiple other content providers out there, which seem to be ever growing.  And if Star Trek is the only product driving you to CBS Access, would 22 episodes or less be worth over a hundred dollars a year to you?

CBS needs to do this though as an incentive for people to adopt its digital platform, which will also offer a library of many other shows from the network's rich history and select movies from the parent company archives.  (National Amusements, Inc., controls Viacom, which owns Paramount and CBS, as well as the Star Trek franchise, not to mention MTV, Nickelodeon, etc. It's a true multimedia behemoth).

Star Trek has been a cash cow for decades. The classic series only lasted three seasons in the 1960s, but it spawned a dedicated fan base that kept interest alive in creator Gene Roddenberry's futuristic vision, able to tell tales that paralleled contemporary issues. When the movie Star Wars burst on the scene in 1977, creating a demand for stories about adventures set in space, the door was open for Star Trek to return in a big way, first with its own motion picture series, then with a string of enormously successful new television shows -- The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. The recent successful rebooting of the franchise on the big screen has attracted new fans, and the return of Star Wars again will surely make any established science fiction property a hot commodity.

Will Star Trek draw masses to CBS Access, or would it have been better for the network to bring the show completely to its broadcast channel, saving the old business model? Maybe this is a sign that the old way is dying and the future of "television" content truly is on streaming video services.

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