Will You Pay $6 A Month to Watch Star Trek: Discovery?

Tell us why this makes sense.

September 21, 2017

Nowhere is the love of Star Trek more fervent than in those who work at the intersection of technology and learning. In edtech, we are on a mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

That is why our learning technology community is so primed for Star Trek: Discovery.  

The question is, will our higher ed community - will you - pay $6 a month to CBS All Access to watch the show? Actually the $6 is streaming with “limited commercials”.  If you want to avoid commercials the monthly cost is $10.

CBS has declined to make episodes of Discovery available for critics to preview, but my gut from reading about the show and watching the previews is that it is going to be fantastic.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly desperate for a really good show about the future.   (As an aside, are you as excited for Blade Runner 2049 as I am?)  The Expanse on the Syfy Network is pretty great, but can’t compete with the resources that CBS has thrown into Star Trek: Discovery.  Variety reports that each episode is costing up to $8.5 million to produce, a huge amount of money for a TV show.

So, all good, right?  We have strong demand and a likely high quality product.

Are you going to subscribe to CBS All Access?

My guess is that your answer will be “no”.  Mine too.

I’ll watch the premier on Sunday (9/24), and then probably sign up for the free 1 week trial so that I can watch the second episode.  But after that, I highly doubt that I want to give CBS $6 a month.

The problem for CBS is that there are no other shows that I want to watch on their network.  Just to be sure, I looked at the list of shows on CBS All Access - and still not interested.  Paying to stream NCIS (3 versions) or CSI (either version), while also having to watch commercials, feels suboptimal.

Does CBS’s strategy to grant exclusive access to Star Trek: Discovery on their paid streaming platform make any sense?.  (If you live outside of the U.S., apparently you will be able to watch the show on Netflix).

Is there a case to be made for making an audience pay for a show?

Sure.  HBO proved that people will pay for quality content.  We all know that if the revenue model is based on advertising that the viewers are not the audience, they are the product.  There are very few good TV shows on traditional ad supported platforms.

The problem CBS has is that they are betting that they can carry an entire streaming platform - CBS All Access - on the back of a single show.  This seems like a bad bet.

CBS would have been smarter to release Star Trek: Discover on Showtime (which CBS owns), and use the show to drive revenues for those streaming and premium cable services.  Or, better yet, CBS could have put the show on the network and free online, creating some much needed buzz for the network.

If you have a good counter-argument to my conclusion then I'd very much like to hear it.

All this is depressing.  Star Trek matters to higher education.  We are people who think a great deal about the future.  Star Trek has helped us figure out what we want that future to be.

My favorite Star Trek world is The Next Generation, as the edtech platform that I hope will emerge in my lifetime will most closely resemble Data. Deep Space 9 (DS9) was also great. Voyager.  What do we think of Voyager?

With so few of us watching Discovery our community will miss out on any number of critical conversations.  The fact that CBS is trying to force folks on to a streaming platform where they don’t want to be is not good for either the show or the network.  (Or us).

How did CBS get this so wrong?


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