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Disney’s CEO Says Reports of ESPN’s Demise Are Ridiculous

StarTrekFEATURE

Get ready Trekkers! CBS said today that it will be launching a brand new Star Trek  series starting in January 2017. The show will be set in the Star Trek universe but will introduce new characters, civilizations, and worlds. And you won’t be able to catch most of it on TV.

“This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before—directly to its millions of fans through CBS All Access,” Marc DeBevoise, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Digital Media, said in a press release.

‘They’re still watching our content. They’re just watching it in different places.’ CBS CEO Les Moonves

That means that the new series will first premiere on CBS’ channel on good old TV, but then all subsequent episodes will be available exclusively on the company’s on-demand and live streaming app in the US.

So, that’s… new. CBS, a network television giant, has decided not only that one of its biggest new shows will land on its streaming app, for which viewers need to pay $5.99 a month, but that it should announce the news more than a year before the show hits the airwaves, er, the inter-tubes.

“We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate [CBS All Access’] growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series,” DeBevoise said.

A Revolution Is Coming

After all, CBS knows what other media giants have slowly but surely come to realize, too. Yes, we’re obsessively binging video pretty much any chance we get, but we’re not tied to our televisions anymore. In fact, lots of us don’t need them at all. The TV industry, which has seen competition grow and its subscribers decline in recent years, is at a crossroads.

“The channels may be declining, but the watching of our content is not declining,” CBS president and chief executive officer Leslie Moonves said at the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJD conference last month. “They’re still watching our content. They’re just watching it in different places.”

But those different places matter—and traditional TV giants want to make sure they don’t lose out as Netflix and HBO capitalize on audiences that don’t feel as inclined to pay for cable anymore. Moonves acknowledged that as more people shift away from traditional live TV, advertising revenue will decline, and companies like CBS will need to become more dependent on subscription revenue. The revolution is coming, he said, and “we will get paid for it.”

With the Star Trek announcement today, CBS is conceding that revolution has already started. If CBS can get even some of Star Trek‘s millions of fans to subscribe to its streaming app and get at least some of those who sign up to stay, it will be a boon for the company. If streaming is the future, which it does seem to be, CBS knows that it needs to grow that (paying) audience now, even as the company’s shares get hammered on fears that, as with other traditional broadcasters, it’s not ready to fend off the Netflixes of the world.

“The market is basically saying to the big media companies, ‘Oh my God, everything’s going to digital.’ Guess what? All the big media companies are going to digital,” Moonves added.

And that seems to be true, too. Many giants have had dedicated streaming apps or allowed viewers to stream shows online for years, but they’re beginning to grow their paid offerings too, like a new subscription comedy app from NBC. Cutting the cord is easier than ever—but, as the options proliferate, its becoming more expensive than ever too. CBS wants to make sure it has something, like a Star Trek exclusive, that makes its All Access service worth paying for when there are already so many options from which to choose.

“Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world,” said Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group. The message seems to be: If any show can bring a new paying audience to an app, Star Trek can.

CBS’ stock was up three percent this morning on the news. The company will report its third quarter earnings tomorrow after the closing bell.

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