We've known for months now that CBS has been putting together a new Star Trek series for television. Called Discovery, the new show is expected to premiere in May of 2017, but fans will only be able to catch it on CBS' streaming site CBS All Access. Recently, CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone explained why the company ultimately opted to put Star Trek: Discovery on a streaming platform rather than a regular broadcast network. The answer has to do with how sci fi has fared on broadcast TV in the past. Here's what he had to say:
Sci-fi is not something that has traditionally done really well on broadcast. It's not impossible, for the future, if somebody figures it out. And things like Lost and Heroes have had parts of sci fi, but historically, a show like Star Trek wouldn't necessarily be a broadcast show, at this point. So, you kind-of look at the other networks we might have---CW and Showtime---it just fit the Digital audience. And it's something unique for All Access that would bring subscribers.
There have been a lot of opinions and comments related to this running around the Internet ever since CBS announced Star Trek would be returning, but via CBS All Access. Jim Lanzone's theory is that Star Trek wouldn't necessarily be able to stick around if it were on regular CBS. He told Recode Media with Peter Kafka there were myriad reasons why CBS ultimately decided to go with the streaming service but at the end of the day, it just fit the bill a lot better than the network's other options, including subscription cable.
It's true that a lot of science fiction projects don't fare all that well on broadcast TV. Shows like Firefly, V, Dollhouse, Almost Human and more have all had niche fanbases and still been cancelled far too soon. However, it should also be noted that Star Trek projects have fared well in the past. The number of viewers who need to tune in each week to ensure a renewal has also changed in recent years, and Star Trek has enough of a built-in fanbase that it could potentially thrive wherever CBS opted to put it.
We'll get a taste of whether or not Discovery could have made it on a traditional platform when it premieres. CBS plans to air the premiere live on CBS and to make all subsequent episodes only available on CBS All Access. This is presumably to make traditional CBS audiences aware that there are original programs available on the streaming service that don't air on TV.
Jim Lanzone also explained that CBS All Access opened up the door to allow a different sort of Star Trek program to potentially hit the schedule. If the story fits, he says that "futuristic swearing" and even "naked aliens" aren't totally off of the table. So expect something at least little bit different from Star Trek: Discovery, even if it doesn't boldy go into brand new TV territory.
If you'd like to give Star Trek: Discovery a watch, you can do so in May of 2017. Currently, CBS All Access costs $5.99 or $9.99 for a commercial-free package, and you can get more details here.