Cutting through the Paywall – All Access


It’s time to tackle the elephant in the room. Let’s talk streaming services, CBS All Access and Star Trek: Discovery and future projects.

First a bit of a disclaimer, I am Canadian, which means I live in the only country I’m aware of that features Star Trek: Discovery on a basic cable station. I don’t have to pay any extra to watch it. I do not have access to CBS All Access where I live.

That said I have long been a fan of the streaming system, Netflix and Prime have done something groundbreaking in their exclusive catalogs, whether it’s through true home-brew productions like their Marvel titles or imports from other countries like Lillyhammer, they’ve built a niche market for themselves and leveraged it and it’s quality to grow their viewership.

Remember when streaming was that thing nobody would waste their time buffering?

I remember when I first got Netflix, I actually didn’t know anyone else who had it. And there wasn’t a great deal of new things to see from my perspective. I spent a lot of time watching foreign series the names of which I can’t even remember now, but I think one involved English citizens given community service who somehow became superheroes…

Fast forward to today and there’s a ton of content, with new originals announced and released all the time. A studio outside the TV and movie studios that would take risks of their own and bring us things we would never otherwise see. Even R-rated projects the mainstream stations would never have touched.

And so the floodgates opened.

‘I don’t want to get off on a rant her, but…’

Now everybody and their parent company is rushing to start their own streaming service, and to bring us what?

We assume apple will deliver their iTunes video catalog plus originals, or else what’s the point? Disney? We know there are Star Wars projects on the way but I can’t see the studio that releases their own back catalog on physical media only once a decade giving us free access to the kingdom 24/7/365… it doesn’t fit.

And then we have the bubble services, these are the equivalent of every behind the curve genius in the 90’s who wanted to convince you they had a dot-com project of their own, it’s just they didn’t have it running yet. These are the CBS’ of the world, where they either somehow lack the rights to their own back catalogs or lack the wherewithal to output them in a way we can consume them.

Incidentally, these are the same people whose late night series hosts do brilliant viral worthy bits every night then somehow manage to produce DMCA takedown requests when people start paying attention to their products… but I digress.

So what can Star Trek do for All Access?

The short answer, a lot.

The long answer, a lot if done correctly. CBS boasted about higher than ever sign up which is great for business. But how many subscribers did they have prior? What had they done to deserve subscribers prior?

Star Trek brings with it a built-in fan base unlike any before it, Trek fans basically invented fans fighting to keep their show and to get it back on the air after it was canceled. At this time our airwaves and streaming services are littered with reboots and continuation of series that ended years or decades ago, this ‘new idea’ disn’t exist when Star Trek: Phase II or Next Generation were conceived.

As a result of this fan base it makes perfect business sense to use it as an anchor for your new service, it’s what I would do and in the same position I think it’s also what you would do.

There’s only one problem with an anchor, they tend to sink.

This is the reason we connect anchors to solid lines and chains. In the case of streaming that means a solid backbone on the server-side to keep the app working perfectly and seamlessly, and a great chain of content to supplement it and add value.

Looking over the listing of available series on CBS All Access it seems they have added a majority of their Star Trek back catalogue at this point, but the movie rights are otherwise tied up.

This explains the logic behind the Kurtzman deal, more new content in the Star Trek Universe means more value which means more subscribers. Throw in a little fan service most of us missed, but I doubt is a coincidence…

5 year deal? Or is it a 5 year mission to boldly add content where no content has existed before.

Ultimately this means the outlook for new content on All Access is actually pretty bright, so only one question remains, should Star Trek be behind a paywall?

The answer is No, but.

As many have pointed out Star Trek, more so than any other property has led to inspiration and innovation. It’s entire premise was to lift the masses up to the level of the perfect future, where questions about our society could be freely asked and honestly answered. That does not belong behind a paywall, and doesn’t deserve a price for admission. But, from a business standpoint CBS is half in the right, air it first on All Access, but it needs to be syndicated on network tv.

Why does it need to?

To bring it to your audience. There’s a reason newspapers died, and a reason Television is feeling the pressure to jump on streaming, and its the same reason. Modern audiences want their content delivered when they want it, where they want it and they won’t settle for any less. For some that means on their phones and tablets, for others the computer screen, and for a large percentage of the population on their DVR. Paywalls didn’t save the newspapers, and no single paywall will save a TV studio.

It’s safe to say that while Star Trek: Discovery has its fans, and I count myself as one of them, it also has a lot of people who despise it. And from what I can tell that’s more to do with the delivery method then the actual content.

Next. A look at Short Treks: Runaway & Talking Tilly. dark

I’m going to ask for some brutally honest feedback here everyone.

Do you love or hate Star Trek: Discovery?

If you hate it, how much have you seen?

If you love it, was it worth the price?

Either way, would you have given it a little more leeway, or a second viewing on TV rather than All Access?

I think if we’re all honest here we’ll see some interesting information take root. What would we all have said to the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation if it was behind a paywall… and Before you tell me season one had some good episodes (which it did), I remind you:

"‘No treaty, No Vaccine and No Lieutenant Yar!’"

Hit me back in the comments, on Facebook, and Twitter, I can’t wait to see where this discussion takes us.