We’re getting a brand new Star Trek series, but it comes with a catch — instead of airing on CBS, the series will broadcast exclusively on the network’s All Access streaming service.
In a chat with Recode Media’s podcast, CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone opened up about the studio’s decision to place the series on the online service instead of CBS’s prime-time broadcast network. Put simply: CBS doesn’t believe the franchise can succeed on mainline network television. Yeah, just think about that for a minute. CBS doesn’t think an eagerly anticipated series based on one of the biggest sci-fi franchises in existence can be a ratings hit. Wow.
Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
“Scifi is not something that has traditionally done really well on broadcast. It’s not impossible, for the future, if somebody figures it out. And things like Lost and Heroes have had parts of, you know, scifi, but historically, a show like Star Trek wouldn’t necessarily be a broadcast show, at this point. And so, you kind of look at the other networks we have, CW and Showtime, it just fit the with the digital audience and having that digital Star Trek audience.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, no doubt. Lanzone makes a fair point that it’s fairly rare for a sci-fi series to become a crossover, mainstream hit. There are examples, but there aren’t a ton of them. Typically, these shows work better on networks with lower ratings expectations (i.e. cable, The CW, etc.). Sure, that makes sense.
But we’re living in an era where science fiction is huge. The Walking Dead is literally the biggest show on television, and if there were ever a time for a Star Trek series to break big, this is it. Plus, by putting this show on a little-watched streaming service, doesn't that start it off at a disadvantage?
What do you think? Should CBS put it on the main network, or keep it on streaming?