Jim Cloudman

New Star Trek TV Series in 2017

November 3, 2015 Permalink

After far too long, we're going to see a new Star Trek TV series in January 2017. If Reddit is anything to go by 1, the general reaction to this is excitement blended with skepticism, and a dash of offense at having to pay $6/mo to view it through CBS's streaming service. How dare they make you pay for yet another thing?

The way I see it, however, using it to relaunch a streaming service actually gives me hope.

The typical TV show has one mission: to get as many viewers as possible, for as long as possible. This means that as a network, you generally try to keep the show's appeal as broad as possible, and the shows in primetime reflect that. They make choices to bring in new viewers at the expense of the core audience, because the core audience is still going to watch it anyway. They have to like it, but anything more means little to the network.

Star Trek has an entirely different mission, however: it has to effectively sell the entire streaming service. That makes the barrier to entry much higher - you won't get random people dropping by to check it out, and too many who do will decide that it's not worth $72/year. This means that it's not enough to just like the show - you have to love it.

That works against something with broad appeal, in favor of something that really appeals to the core audience. That's practically Star Trek's reason for being - few other shows have such an enormous appeal to those who watch it.

If you need to get more people to buy your streaming service, you need the kind of show that is beloved. That's likely why Amazon paid $250 million to get Jeremy Clarkson and his team when he punched out of Top Gear. I would bet Yahoo bought Community for the same reason, and I would also bet that's why Star Trek is going to this streaming platform.

So why does that give me hope? Because CBS is more incentivized to make it a show that some people love, rather than a show that everybody kind of likes. To do that, they'll be forced to rekindle at least some of the magic of the old Star Trek series. I, for one, will hold out just a little hope that CBS realizes this.

  1. It usually isn't.