Why CBS didn't sell Star Trek: Discovery to Netflix

Contributed by
Feb 27, 2018

The answer to why CBS didn't sell Star Trek: Discovery to Netflix seems pretty obvious. But just in case, CBS chief Les Moonves is here to spell it out for you: “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,” he told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Tuesday. 

CBS is a network that unapologetically caters to an older audience. Its tentpole series are shows like NCIS and CSI and their various spin-offs. When the network announced they were launching their own fee-based subscription on demand service, All Access, it seemed like an odd choice. Was grandma really going to pay money to watch TV on a computer that she doesn't know how to operate?

Unsurprisingly, the way to draw in more viewers -- and therefore more money -- is to offer original programming. Star Trek was the perfect franchise: CBS owns the rights to the show, and, according to Moonves, it comes with “a built-in fanbase that was pretty emphatic.” Sure enough, once Star Trek: Discovery was made available on the streamer, the network claimed it had the most single-day sign-ups in its (brief) history. 

And Star Trek: Discovery was broadcast on Netflix in 188 countries outside of the United States and Canada, so it's not like CBS didn't make a good chunk of change off the streamer. 

Moonves also said that All Access and Star Trek: Discovery are helping draw in younger audiences, but they are still a long way away from being able to compete with streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Currently, the only network-level shows All Access has are Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Wife spinoff, The Good Fight, though it is working on a Twilight Zone reboot produced by Jordan Peele.