Discovery, the first Star Trek television series since Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, made its long anticipated debut on Sunday, September 24th. The first episode aired on CBS - following an unfortunate delay from NFL football overrun and 60 Minutes that did not go uncommented upon on social media - and the second episode was made immediately available on CBS All-Access, the streaming subscription service that will serve as Discovery's home from now on.
CBS had hoped airing the first episode on the broadcast channel would show off the flashy new series to a wide audience and entice new subscribers to All-Access. While it's unclear how many people will be wrangled into the streaming service, the traditional ratings for the premiere were solid; according to EW, 9.6 million viewers and a 1.9 rating among adults 18-49 tuned into the first episode, and CBS expects that number to rise to about 15 million overall viewers and a 3.0 rating when delayed DVR viewing is factored in. While The Orville's premiere netted a 2.7 in the key demo, it pulled in 8.6 million total viewers, so more people were tuning in for the genuine article over MacFarlane's parody/homage.
Neither show should really put too much stock in those numbers, however. Both premieres were aided significantly by NFL football lead-ins that almost certainly artificially inflated their audience. Indeed, once The Orville moved to its regular timeslot on Thursdays, its ratings saw a significant tumble.
The standards for success are quite a bit different for Discovery. Along with The Good Fight, a well reviewed but modestly watched spinoff of longtime CBS series The Good Wife, Discovery is the only original series CBS All-Access is currently offering, and the future of both the Star Trek franchise and the streaming service rest on Discovery's shoulders. CBS is spending a tremendous amount of money on both Discovery's production and promotional campaign to bring in new subscribers - and while early signs indicate that its debut brought about a massive uptick in new customers, the longterm viability of the platform likely won't be known until near the end of Discovery's debut season.
If successful, Discovery could lead to spinoffs in other corners of the Star Trek universe, like a proposed Khan series spearheaded by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer. It'll be awhile before we know if that's in the cards, but Discovery is off to a solid start.
Star Trek: Discovery continues next Sunday with ‘Context is for Kings’ on CBS All Access.