Not that the first season of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ has wrapped, we can safely say that the series is for the most part off to a strong start. It’s certainly not been without its missteps (we’ve certainly voiced our share of complaints as they’ve arisen), but one of the most persistent criticisms has little to do with the show itself. Rather, the one complaint that seems to come up more than any other has been the decision to distribute the show via the CBS All Access streaming service. While it’s understandable to some extent (I can’t imagine anyone is eager to pay for yet another streaming service) after a while it begins to feel like complaining that ‘Game of Thrones’ is on HBO rather than Showtime.
That being said, it’s certainly fair to wonder why the show ended up on All Access, particularly given the emphasis on original content seen at outlets like Hulu, Amazon, and of course Netflix. And it’s worth noting that ‘Discovery’ did exactly that in foreign markets, eschewing All Access in favor of Netflix and other local platforms. Speaking to investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, CBS head Les Moonves addressed the matter, explaining that “We could have sold it to Netflix for a lot more money, but you can be darn sure All Access wouldn’t be doing as well.” This echoes remarks Moonves made (also to investors) last August:
“We could have put ‘Star Trek’ on Showtime, on the CBS Television Network, or Netflix, Amazon, they all wanted it for a lot of money. We determined that ‘Star Trek’ would be far better for All Access and will earn us more money.”
The interesting part of this is not so much that CBS considered (however briefly) launching ‘Discovery’ on an established network or streaming platform, but that they turned down what appears to have been a good deal of money on the chance that an exclusive ‘Star Trek’ series would generate interest in CBS All Access. And generate interest it has, with All Access seeing a record number of signups in the month prior to the show’s late September debut, to say nothing of the signups that have followed over the course of the season.
And of course, this is hardly a new approach for ‘Star Trek’. After all, ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ was originally commissioned to provide “must see” programming for UPN, at the time a startup network. Prior to the launch of ‘Voyager’, ‘Star Trek’ had been distributed through first-run syndication, where ‘The Next Generation’ and ‘Deep Space Nine’ had found their successes.
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is due to begin production of its second season in April. The new season, which will feature returning stars Sonqua Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, and Anthony Rapp, is expected to air on CBS All Access in late 2018 or early 2019,