A new Star Trek series is being produced in the US with an aim to boldly stream where no series has streamed before. The show, which is in the works at CBS, will introduce new Star Trek characters, but promises to stay true to its roots by “exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966”.
Indeed, the people on the bridge are more than familiar with the Trek universe: Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote and produced 2009’s feature-length Star Trek with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness with Orci and Damon Lindelof, will serve as executive producer for the series, along with Heather Kadin. Kurtzman is no alien to CBS, either: he is also an executive producer for the series Scorpion and Limitless, along with Kadin and Orci, and for Hawaii Five-0 with Orci.
The news arrives just as the franchise – one of the most successful of all time, with a dozen films and five series under its Starfleet-issued belt – prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. (It will have no relation to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond.)
“There is no better time to give Star Trek fans a new series than on the heels of the original show’s 50th anniversary celebration,” says David Stapf, President, CBS Television Studios. “Everyone here has great respect for this storied franchise, and we’re excited to launch its next television chapter in the creative mind and skilled hands of Alex Kurtzman, someone who knows this world and its audience intimately.”
But this is more than a quick reboot on the small screen for CBS, which is using the show to take a bold new direction in its broadcasting: the pilot episode will premiere on the TV network, but all subsequent episodes with then debut exclusively on streaming service CBS All Access.
The surprise move by CBS will make the new programme the first original series to be developed specifically for the cross-platform VOD service, which offers US viewers thousands of episodes from CBS’ current and past seasons on-demand, plus the ability to stream their local CBS Television stations live for $5.99 per month.
“We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, expanding the service across affiliates and devices in a very short time,” says Marc DeBevoise, Executive Vice President/General Manager – CBS Digital Media.
Indeed, subscribers can now use the service through the CBS App for iOS, Android and Windows 10, as well as on connected devices such as Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku players and Roku TV, with more connected devices to come.
“We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series,” adds DeBevoise.
CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series, which it is promoting ahead of the new series to encourage people to sign up.
Indeed, OTT (over-the-top content distributed directly via the web) is becoming an increasingly common undertaking for many broadcasters, as the viewing of TV movies from traditional broadcast to online services: in the wake of Netflix’s disruptive intrusion upon the viewing landscape, a growing number of consumers expect to be able to watch content without being tied down to a contract.
Seven in 10 US Internet users now watch OTT video, according to research by eMarketer, although a large portion of those are made up by YouTube users. Smaller services are seeing rapid growth: Netflix, for example, will see its audience in the US grow by more than 20 per cent this year.
Offering in-house OTT services, rather than syndicate content to other platforms, allows CBS and others to attract audiences who would otherwise not sign up. A report from Parks Associates found that this year, roughly 7 per cent of all US households (8.4 million) now subscribe to at least one OTT service but do not suscribe to pay-TV – including those who have cut the cord and cancelled any contracts, as well as those who have never subscribed to a pay-TV serice.
Even the BBC is launching its own OTT subscription service in the US to offer programming that isn’t already being broadcast in America and Canada.
“We’re launching a new OTT video service in America offering BBC fans programs they wouldn’t otherwise get, showcasing British actors, our program-makers and celebrating our culture,” Director General Tony Hall told the Royal Television Society Convention last month.
Broadcasters generally only use branded OTT platforms, though, as a means to expand their domestic presence: other broadcasters and streaming services are vital to reaching international audiences. Indeed, Star Trek has a huge, and hugely profitable, global presence: the Star Trek series are currently licensed in more than 190 countries, while the franchise still generates more than a billion social media impressions every month.
This new chapter in the franchise will be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International, who have previously signed second-run deals with Netflix for shows such as Zoo and first-run deals with Sky (and its own UK OTT service, NOW TV) for shows such as Limitless.
“Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world,” adds Armando Nuñez, President and CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group. “We can’t wait to introduce Star Trek’s next voyage on television to its vast global fan base.”