The decision by CBS to put its new series “Star Trek: Discovery” on the CBS All Access digital service — effectively charging viewers a subscription fee to watch the series — has been the source of widespread complaints among “Star Trek” fans and other viewers. But Scott Mendelson, who covers the film industry, writes in Forbes that CBS is doing the right thing.
Mendelson’s argument boils down to the economic model justifying the bigger budget the series needs to achieve its artistic goals.
“The first two episodes look quite expensive, with a middle ground between the more blockbuster-y recent ‘Star Trek’ movies and the old-school ‘smart, empathetic Starfleet folks stand on the ship and debate morality and science’ sequences,” Mendelson writes. “In at least the first two episodes, the show makes a solid case for the notion of bigger budget ‘Star Trek’ shows approximating much of what casual fans and hardcore Trekkers enjoy about the movies.”
He adds: “I’ve long argued that Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s ‘Star Trek’ reboot movies were too expensive, with the money going toward action spectacle that audiences didn’t want. This show, at a glance, is the happy medium.”
Mendelson also notes that “the sense of scale is quite impressive for a television show.”
Turning to that pesky subscription fee, Mendelson comments: “I get the opposition to paying a monthly fee to subscribe to a channel that offers a single show that entices you, even if I imagine that plenty of folks have done just that for ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Homeland’ or ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ But, if you like ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ or at least you’re enough of a fan of the brand or the folks in front-of-or-behind the camera, you might want to consider paying for the immediate access. If we don’t pay for the art we enjoy there will be no money to create the art we crave.”
He also notes: “Folks who are paying $6-$10 per month to subscribe to CBS All Access aren’t paying to watch ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’ They are paying to watch ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ at the first possible moment that it is available. … In an era when TV shows are released on DVD and VOD after airing, subscribers are paying primarily for immediate access.”
We encourage readers to click on the link above to Forbes to read Mendelson’s full analysis.