As CBS finishes its merger with Viacom, the CBS All Access service will merge with Viacom entities in order to strengthen the brand.
ViacomCBS will be looking for ways to merge all of their streaming properties into one service that will run a free, ad-supported service as well as a premium, monthly subscription version. The monthly subscription version won’t have ads and will possibly have access to Showtime. The idea is to have CBS all Access be the hub of all the content. As noted in a release from CNBC:
"While ViacomCBS executives haven’t made any firm decisions, they are considering creating a service with advertisements that will combine CBS All Access with Viacom assets including Pluto TV, Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures, said the people, who asked not to be named because the product discussions are private."
So what does this mean for Star Trek? If watching other streaming services like Hulu, DC Universe and the WWE Network over the last few years means anything, then Star Trek will be affected to a great degree. Synergy is at work here, but there’s also a sense of urgency. This isn’t the open-wide land of 2013, where Netflix and Hulu laughed in the face-off, everyone. Amazon, YouTube, Twitch, NBC’s Peacock, ESPN+, DAZN, and so many other services are popping up. There is now less revenue being generated per-service because the market is loaded with so many options.
Netflix is $12.43 BILLION in debt. The WWE Network is considering selling off the only reason to even get the services, premium live content, to places like DAZN, and ESPN+ because they’ve yet to really make any money with the service. DC Universe is sending shows to HBO and the CW because they’re bleeding money.
The idea that Star Trek alone is supporting CBS All-Access is largely a joke. The last nationally broadcasted Star Trek show pulled in 3 million people for the last season and Star Trek Beyond only saw about 40 million people worldwide go see the film. That’s not counting people who went multiple times either.
CBS All-Access has somewhere between 6.5 and 8 million subscribers for this specific service. Let’s split the difference and say half are going with the ad version, and half aren’t. That’s about $61 million in revenue from subscribers alone. That subscriber base is not big enough to support the budgets of the modern Star Trek shows. Advertisers aren’t too happy with options that negate their products, so there’s not as much incentive for them to pay streaming services gobs of money when they know their ad may not reach all 8 million subscribers. So their ad-revenue is low for these sorts of things.
Considering All-Access is sinking nearly $500 million into two t.v. shows, that only attract a niche market, you better believe changes are coming to the service. Both Discovery and Picard run a whopping $9 million an episode to produce. For comparison, Star Trek: Next Generation cost $1.3 million an episode. Adjusting for inflation, a Star Trek series made in 2020 with a similar budget would still only cost $2.8 million an episode. That’s three times as expensive as necessary.
This is partly why streaming services are going to be in trouble, they’re over-spending and shelling out large sums of money for projects that won’t net them as much return as a first-run sitcom. CBS has a malarky of an idea of hitting 17 million more subscribers in the next two years. The WWE had a goal of hitting two million in two years.
Streaming services are not the lucrative market so many think they are. There more than likely isn’t one that’s in the black financially. At least on a major level. They are super expensive, and companies are over-paying at an alarming rate to get rights to properties, creators, and directors just so they can somehow corner a market place that is being undercut every single day by the free streaming services of YouTube and Twitch.
This is still a business and when your revenue is in the billions, you penny-pinch hard.
None of this is to say that CBS is giving up on Star Trek, this is merely a warning. CBS will probably be cutting down on the number of Star Trek shows, and the budget for each episode as this merger grows near. If watching what happened to DC Universe, and the WWE Network are any indication of what’s to come, there might only be one Star Trek show on at a time when the streaming merger happens.