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After Star Trek: can CBS prevent binge-and-bolt?

CBS All Access

The premier of the new Star Trek is just under two months away and CBS is starting to stack All Access with exclusive shows it hopes will keep people subscribed once the last episode is released. Will it be enough?

Star Trek: Discovery around the corner

CBS Star Trek DiscoveryAfter a 9-month delay, CBS is ready to launch the first new Star Trek series since Enterprise went off the air in 2005. Star Trek: Discovery, set 10 years before the original Star Trek, will have its premiere on CBS broadcast channels countrywide on September 24th. The first two regular season episodes will be available to stream on CBS All Access immediately afterward. All subsequent episodes will be released each Sunday exclusively through All Access.

Star Trek key to hitting subscriber targets

Les Moonves CBS

Les Moonves, CBS Head

Making Discovery exclusively available through All Access is a big gamble by CBS head Les Moonves. He has staked a lot on the success of his company’s online efforts, spearheaded by CBS All Access. The service launched in October 2014 and has made slow but steady progress in attracting subscribers. Today, it has a reported 1.5 million paying customers. However, this is well short of the target Mr. Moonves has set: 4 million subscribers by 2020. And at the current growth rate, All Access might not make the 2020 goal.

That’s where Star Trek: Discovery comes in. Unless the premiere episode on CBS TV is a disaster, Discovery should quickly push All Access subscribers to the 4 million target and beyond. So why is Mr. Moonves only predicting 4 million by 2020 when he’ll likely hit that total this year? Many of those Star Trek fans are very likely to binge the series and bolt from the service when it’s done.

Mr. Moonves and his team are going to have to work very hard to hang on to as many of those Star Trek fans as possible. So, what’s the plan?

More originals are coming to CBS All Access

CBS is banking on more original exclusive content to help keep those new subscribers. The company announced 3 new original shows, to join The Good Wife and Big Brother Over the Top. Strange Angels is a show about rocket scientist Jack Parsons and his odd personal life. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have created a comedy about cops and criminals called No Activity. A mystery series, called $1, tracks a dollar bill through the hands of various people connected to a murder.

CBS already has all episodes of every previous Star Trek series available through All Access. Also available is a large library of other CBS shows, and access to live streams of many CBS affiliates.

Will the Star Trek fans stay when Discovery is done?

Is this enough to stop the binge-and-bolt of the new Star Trek subscribers paying $5.99-a-month for the service? I doubt it. CBS will need to provide a constant stream of new shows to keep a sizable portion of the new audience. And devoting so much creative energy to All Access is a very risky strategy indeed because it undermines existing relationships with affiliates and pay TV operators.

If Star Trek fails to get a large number of new subscribers to All Access as Mr. Moonves is expecting, that could be the beginning of the end for the service. CBS only gets to pull the Star Trek rabbit out of the hat once. It’s failure online could ultimately force a complete realignment of the company’s content distribution strategy.

Why it matters

CBS is throwing most of its eggs into the Star Trek: Discovery basket as it tries to catapult All Access to success.

If the show is a success it will likely attract millions of fans to the service.

Most of them will probably leave again once the show is done unless CBS further risks relationships with traditional distribution partners.

If the show is a flop it could lead to the demise of All Access.


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