A decade after the end of the last Star Trek Enterprise, CBS Television Studios has finally announced that there will be a new Star Trek television series. The show will premiere in 2017, one year after the franchise's 50th anniversary and the release of Star Trek Beyond, the newest film. The series will be executive produced by Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness co-writer and producer Alex Kurtzman. (Cue screams of anguish?)
CBS is getting tricksy about things though. The first-run episodes of the new Star Trek will appear on CBS All Access, the network's streaming platform. I bet most of you didn't even realize they had a streaming platform, but it's already out there, it costs $5.99 a month, and every episode of Star Trek is available on it. After the episodes premiere on CBS All Access, they'll be released on domestic television and other platforms.
The new series will be not related to Star Trek Beyond, according to CBS. Instead, it will feature a new crew, looking for new life and new civilizations. The reason is probably rights issues.
Fans have been asking for a new Star Trek television series for a long time. The major wall between us and a new series has been CBS. See, Paramount Pictures holds the film rights, but the television rights are held by CBS. To understand why, you need to dig into corporate nonsense. Originally, Paramount Pictures and Paramount Television were owned by the same company, Paramount Communications. Both sides made Star Trek stuff tailored to their own mediums.
In 1994, Paramount Communications was purchased by Viacom, which then bought CBS in 2000. In 2005, Viacom's board of directors decided to split the company: Paramount Pictures went to a new company called Viacom, while Paramount Television went to the old Viacom, now renamed the CBS Corporation.
While Paramount Pictures needed a big-screen Star Trek, as the series was one of the few major properties it owns, CBS has been trucking along fine without genre television. Procedurals like CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and the Mentalist have been its bread and butter, backed by comedies like Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. Things change though. CSI is gone, as are lower-performing spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. The newest one, CSI: Cyber is pretty much dead in the water. Two and a Half Men and the Mentalist are gone. There are other highlights, but CBS' overall audience is decidedly older right now.
When you count total viewers, CBS is still riding high, with Big Bang Theory, NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, and Blue Bloods in the Top 10. When you focus on the key 18-49 adult demographic though, things shift. AMC's The Walking Dead becomes the #1 show on TV. Game of Thrones on HBO is #9. American Horror Story on FX is #14 and Gotham on Fox is #17. CBS' debut of Supergirl was the most-watched debut of any show this season. Genre television is making a comeback after being all but dead on major network television.
In this new era, it makes sense for Star Trek to make a return. Kurtzman not only wrote both Star Trek films, he also executive produced Scorpion and Limitless, two of CBS' better-performing new shows. CBS trusts him to make solid TV and he at least has a passing knowledge of Star Trek. Audiences have proven that they're willing to watch TV that leans away from reality. Star Trek as a concept also also lends itself to the procedural style that CBS loves: every planet or civilization is a new case for the crew to solve.
For CBS, Star Trek is a prestige series that will get 18-49 adult viewers to potentially subscribe to CBS All Access. Much like HBO has used Game of Thrones to pull people into HBO Go, CBS is hoping you'll want to see Star Trek enough pay for it. And to be honest, they're probably right. The fanbase of Star Trek probably has the disposable income to throw away $5.99 a month for a single show.
Things are still early for the new Star Trek. Choosing the right cast is important to any show, but the Captain is especially important in Star Trek. Since this is unrelated to the film, when will the show take place? It's likely that the Enterprise will be involved - you can't get that classic opening monologue otherwise - but what form will the ship take? I'm looking forward to seeing the cast and production team fill out over the next year or two.
Star Trek is back, folks.