I was raised on Star Trek.
Saturdays in the 90’s were spent with pizza and Star Trek, first Next Generation, then DS9 and finally Voyager. My mom taped reruns of the original series when they aired on Fox after the noon news so I could watch them after school (and homework). One of the best decisions I ever made as a college student involved dropping a database class after the first day, selling back the textbook, and using the money to buy all three seasons of the original series (before CBS decided it needed a CG update).
So naturally you’d assume I’d be pretty excited when CBS announced it will produce a new Star Trek series, airing in January of 2017.
And yeah, I think it’s pretty cool that there will be new Star Trek in the world. The new movies have been fun, and as a comic book enthusiast, I’ve been pretty stoked at the revival in Star Trek comics that’s been happening for the last 9 years.
That said, I suspect I’m not alone in really kinda hating how CBS is doing this.
The first episode will air on the traditional CBS network. After that, the rest of the episodes will be distributed exclusively on the CBS All Access platform, a Hulu-like service carrying CBS content exclusively for $6 a month.
According to executive VP Marc DeBevoise: “This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before…”
Behind a pay-wall.
At least in the United States. World-wide it sounds like the series will air via traditional over-the-air networks as well as the all-access app.
All 28 seasons of previously aired Star Trek (not counting 2 years of animated series because who would) were available for free over the air. I know we live in a “different era of television” but this feels a lot like asking us to pay for something we’ve always been able to count on for free.
I can’t decide if CBS’ logic is that the exclusive content will attract more users to the service, or that the series is niche enough that it might be better to go the way of other streaming series like Arrested Development, Community and The Mindy Project. All of those shows had original broadcasts runs and were later revived by Netflix, Yahoo TV and Hulu respectively.
But there’s something about the CBS service that has always felt less than other services like Hulu and Netflix, even Amazon Prime. It sets a precedent for a la carte channel services. I like that my $8 a month to Hulu buys me current and past ABC, FOX, NBC, CW shows (and countless other networks). Just today I was marveling at how much obscure Anime, British television and Korean drama came with my $8 a month. I’m sure CBS has some of the same, but after a while it feels like we keep spending money to buy the same things over and over again with only slight differences.
I only watch two CBS shows currently: The Big Bang Theory, which I binge watch on DVD, and NCIS, which just got 12 seasons streaming on Netflix. The only other CBS shows I’ve been watching have been available on other services, Elementary on Hulu, Numb3rs on Netflix, etc. I’d watch more CBS shows when they come on services I already own, including CBS owned back episodes of Star Trek. I would even go back to appointment television if CBS aired the new series traditionally. I’ll probably buy it if/when they release it on DVD. But until then I’ll have to wait.
Unless we can change CBS’s mind…
If you think the new Star Trek should be available over the free airwaves for all, as it has been for 50 years, send a message using the hashtag #StarTrek4All to @CBS or @StarTrek. Tactics like forcing Star Trek fans to pay for a new series, run the risk of dooming that series before it starts.