Paramount+ is holding back Star Trek's growth

The issue with most of Star Trek these days is the service it's on.
Paramount+ "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" FYC Second Season Event
Paramount+ "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" FYC Second Season Event / Phillip Faraone/GettyImages

After seven years, it's fair to say that Star Trek's biggest problem is its streaming home. Bigger than Alex Kurtzman, bigger than shows that split the audience; the biggest problem for Star Trek is the lack of available eyeballs on it. When Star Trek was a first-run television show, it aired in syndication, meaning it had no primary channel it belonged to. With syndication, it wasn't with a network but with the owner of said networks that you negotiated with. Depending on where you live, you could have The Next Generation air on CBS, Fox, NBC, or an independent channel depending on who paid for the show.

In Cleveland, where I'm from, it aired on WUAB 43, a non-affiliated channel at the time. Later the network became the exclusive home in the area for UPN, then MyNetwork TV, and now, The CW. As with the rise of cable, syndication for first-run shows like Star Trek (Hercules, Xena, etc), died and so more and more shows arrived on cable. Star Trek would benefit from the growth of the television market, as Paramount launched its own network, the United Paramount Network, or UPN.

A channel that was in a majority of households in the United States. More than likely, at its peak, it was a Top 10 available network. All of this to say, Star Trek has always had a lot of available eyes on its product. Interest is another thing, but the opportunity to catch attention was always there.

Then streaming came. Free content over the air became a thing of the past and while many networks still do quite well with mainstream products, niche ones like Star Trek are buried behind paywalls. In this case, Paramount+ (and previously CBS All-Acess). Two streaming services that fail to grab the attention of viewers in the same way Netflix or Amazon has.

While it's improved its subscriber count in recent years, thanks to the NFL partnership, a lot of eyes still aren't going to Star Trek. According to Digital Trends, Paramount+ has about 71 million subscribers, many of whom were grandfathered in when Showtime was added to the service. Most of them, say around 95% of the audience, have no interest in Star Trek.

If you look at the hours watched, and did some math, you could argue that roughly three million people watch Star Trek week to week. That's about 4-plus% of the audience available.

So if you move Star Trek to a bigger platform, like Netflix, which has nearly 300 million subscribers, you're looking at a potential jump in audience. If the same rate of estimated fans tune in, roughly four to five percent, you're looking at a jump of three million to about 10 or 15 million viewers per episode.

That's a significant jump and a much bigger piece of the landscape. Paramount's desire to gouge as much money out of streaming has held the growth of shows like Star Trek back. The brand should be in a much better place, but it's been stuck on a lower-tier streaming service, one that has needed a merger (Viacom) and a merger (Showtime's streaming service) just to stay competitive.

Those mergers, however, are costly and the money isn't there anymore. They blew through a lot of cash to try and bolster their content and it failed. The only prudent move now is to shutter the doors of Paramount+ and start leasing the content to other services.

Including Star Trek. If it lands on a bigger service, more and more people may find it. Look how successful Star Trek did with reruns on Netflix. Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise all found a second life thanks to the availability on Netflix. It can do the same thing to the current era of shows.