CBS's new online streaming platform CBS All Access' future mainly hinges on the success (or failure) of Star Trek: Discovery. The new series, which is set a decade prior to the original 1960s Star Trek TV show and is not connected to the movie reboot series, will follow the adventures of new Number One Michael Burnham, as played by The Walking Dead alum, Sonequa Martin-Green.
The CBS subscription on-demand video service was introduced in 2014 and housed old-school classic series like Cheers and I Love Lucy, but was alway planned to become something bigger via the introduction of original content. Its first piece of original content was meant to be Star Trek: Discovery, but that wound up being The Good Wife spin-off, The Good Fight instead (due to Discovery's multiple production delays). Despite this, Discovery is still pivotal to All Access' future, as CBS is banking on the project to further establish and solidify its paid-for VOD service, amidst stiff and crowded competition in the industry.
In an extensive new feature from Variety on Discovery, series co-creator Alex Kurtzman reveals that production on the show has been challenging on every level, especially when every prop and set has to be customized and manufactured to fit the series. As a result, every episode of Discovery has cost a whopping $8 million-$8.5 million on average, making it a huge investment for the media company. Despite its high cost, however, CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone is confident that the show will deliver its promise and attract more patrons to All Access (leading to the development of more original content for the service, in the future):
“Going back to the very beginning, we knew that adding to the overall number of shows that people could watch with All Access was very interesting to us — that with the subscription model complementing the advertising model, we would have the business model to support making original shows to increase that library."
Ahead of its premiere on All Access, Netflix has nabbed the rights to stream Discovery internationally - something that will help the show to reach more audiences around the world. Between that and the predicted All Access new subscriptions due to Discovery (among other factors), CBS actually considers the show already paid for, according to CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves:
“Look, this was a big call for us... Getting our content online, having it streamed, having it be an important part of our company going forward, we said all right, there is no better way to launch it to the upper level than to take ‘Star Trek,’ which is the family jewels, and put it there to attract millions of viewers.”
As like any media property regardless of platform and format, there is no saying just how Star Trek: Discovery will be received by viewers - but with a huge investment from CBS, the show needs to perform at an optimum level to guarantee both its own and its streaming service's future. Its pilot offering - which will be a two-hour bonanza with the first hour written by co-creator and former showrunner Bryan Fuller alongside Kurtzman, with the succeeding one written by Nicholas Meyer and Fuller - will first debut on CBS next month.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sunday, September 24 on CBS. The remaining episodes of season 1 will stream exclusively through CBS All-Access thereafter.