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Star Trek: Discovery launch on All Access delivers mixed results

CBS All Access

Looking at the fall premiere viewing figures putting Star Trek: Discovery on All Access could have been a good move for CBS. Then again, the broadcaster muffed the launch for many, and sign-ups look good but not spectacular.

Fall season struggling in prime-time

Looking at how CBS has been doing with the fall season, putting Star Trek on All Access looks like a good idea. Nielsen says that CBS won premiere week with an average audience of 9.5 million viewers from September 25th to October 1st. Unfortunately, that is 15% down from premiere week last year. In the 18-49-year-old age group, CBS did even worse. The broadcaster averaged 2.4 million, a decline of 24% from last year.

Many of the missing viewers are watching the shows time-delayed. They are using DVRs and, increasingly, watching on services like CBS All Access. With DVRs in around half of American, far more people are likely watching there than on CBS’ app. TiVo reports that just 2.8% of consumers say they use CBS All Access.

Launch could have been better

CBS Star Trek DiscoveryThe lynchpin of Discovery’s launch was to leverage the broadcast channel to introduce the audience to All Access. It looks like the strategy could have failed in the Eastern and Central time zones. The show was scheduled to start at 8:30 PM Sunday evening. Unfortunately, CBS was airing a football game which ran over, and this led to the show starting 20 minutes late.

Many people tuned in at 8:30 PM and were confused to see Oprah on 60 Minutes. More seriously, some people set their DVRs to record the show and were furious to find they had missed the final 20 minutes of the episode. Not the best way to welcome back the passionate fans of Star Trek after a 12-year hiatus!

Financially, the show is already a success

The special effects and production of Star Trek: Discovery undoubtedly make it the most expensive in the storied history of the franchise. So, how many new subscribers to All Access does CBS need to cover the expensive production budget? None according to the head of CBS, Les Moonves. Speaking at a UBS conference late last year, he said Netflix had purchased the International rights to show:

“Netflix just took it off the table for the rest of the world. Basically, Star Trek is going on CBS All Access for free.”

The fact that CBS has already covered production costs is good news for the company. Any incremental subscribers to All Access that the show attracts contribute directly to the profitability of the service overall.

Is Discovery helping All Access gain ground?

CBS says that subscriber growth has been up nearly 200% since the debut of the show. App Annie, an app analytics specialist, told Variety that CBS almost doubled mobile subscription revenue after the first episode of Discovery. The company also said that downloads of the mobile app almost doubled. These results led to CBS earning more than $60,000 on October 1st through Android and iOS devices. App Annie data does not include All Access registrations that occurred through CBS’s web interface or TV connected devices.

This data is far from conclusive regarding the effectiveness of Star Trek: Discovery at boosting CBS All Access subscribers. It certainly suggests strong growth, but a mere doubling of subscribers to 3 million might be considered a failure of the strategy. Of course, the real test will come after the last episode airs. Then we will know how many of the Star Trek fans that came for Discovery translated into long-term customers of CBS All Access.

 Why it matters

CBS is banking on Star Trek: Discovery giving All Access a big boost in subscribers.

Early indications show there has been a substantial bump in sign-ups.

However, with a muffed launch and good but not spectacular early results, it is far from clear if the strategy has been a success.


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