CBS Corp. is excited about its new Star Trek series, which debuts in January. But at least one CBS affiliate isn’t.
“Star Trek is the hottest property CBS has. If they’re bringing it back to TV, we should get a chance to share it,” the source told 1701News. Because of their position with the affiliate, and contractual obligations between the affiliate and CBS, they asked that neither their name nor location is used. “CBS is jumping over the affiliates, and keeping all the glory on this one to themselves. It’s like Disney or Lucasfilm or (whomever) jumping over the theaters and releasing the new Star Wars movies on DVD first. And Disney doesn’t even have an obligation to the theaters. But CBS has an obligation to its affiliates.”
Like the other major networks, CBS produces and licenses programming, especially in daytime and primetime, which is then distributed through nearly 240 affiliates around the United States, with 16 of them owned by CBS Corp. itself. CBS’ oldest affiliation agreement dates back to 1948 with WTVH in Syracuse, New York, with its newest scheduled to start next year at KRDF in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Depending on the program and agreement, CBS sells national time, with affiliates given some slots for local commercials, which they sell. The bigger the show’s audience, the more CBS, and in turn its affiliates, typically can charge for that advertising.
CBS All Access, however, changes some of that. While affiliates do get an undisclosed portion of the subscription fees paid for the service, typically the programming available there already has aired on local affiliates.
“Star Trek: Series 6” changes all that, however. It will mark the first time CBS will produce what would technically be a network program, and instead bypass affiliates and air it directly on the streaming service. Officials with CBS have described this as a needed step to help compete with other “over-the-top” services viewers can subscribe to without cable, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. Competition there has not focused as much on library of old television shows and movies, but more on original programming, like “House of Cards” with Netflix, “Transparent” on Hulu, and “Game of Thrones” on HBO Now.
A request for comment made late Tuesday by 1701News to CBS Corp., is pending return.
CBS All Access already is big business for the company, which along with Showtime’s over-the-top service, has generated $800 million in revenue, according to TVNewsCheck.
“It’s important that everybody says, ‘OK, our network can be watched in lots of different ways,” CBS executive chairman Les Moonves told TVNewsCheck editor Harry A. Jessell. “Streaming is going to be a new part of it. It’s going to be a new way people watch television. It’s the future, and we want our affiliates to be a part of it.”
Some could say Star Trek carries with it as many risks as potential benefits as a network series. In fact, the record is not solid for the franchise when it comes to network broadcasts. The original series spent three years at the brink of cancellation before having the ax finally fall. “Star Trek: Voyager” was the highest-rated scripted series for UPN, but always fell well below its competitors on larger networks like CBS. And “Star Trek: Enterprise” struggled through its run, finally getting cancelled sooner than expected after its fourth season.
While CBS has had a good string of hits, helping it to maintain its spot as one of the most-watched networks for years, that could create a steeper hill for Star Trek to climb, because it would likely have to meet a much higher ratings threshold to keep up with its fellow shows, compared to what it might earn on another network. In fact, if CBS had prepared “Series 6” for network television, it might have looked to license it to NBC or possibly even Fox.
The anonymous affiliate says they understand a lot of that, but CBS isn’t stopping with the new Star Trek series. The plan is for the studio to release a new original series on the streaming service every quarter.
“You already have far more television shows being produced out there than anytime ever,” the source said. “Everyone’s already competing for those big hits in a field that’s way too crowded. The network ought to focus on the affiliates and live TV, and less on competing with Netflix. They might think affiliates won’t be needed in the future, but that would be more like Star Trek future than the near future, if it ever happens.”
The new Star Trek series was created by Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller. The premiere episode will indeed debut on CBS, but later episodes will be distributed exclusively on CBS All Access, the subscription streaming service offered by CBS Corp.