If you’ve been following the rise of Netflix, have your own account, or simply leave the house and speak to your fellow Earthlings every now and then, chances are you know already just how much the television landscape has changed since the streaming site broke into, and devoured, the mainstream.
Even before it got on board the original content train, Netflix succeeded in taking Breaking Bad, an acclaimed show which almost nobody watched, and turning it into one of the most popular TV series of all time. Technology has literally begun dictating what we watch and when — and I’m not even mad about it. Truth is, I love me some Netflix.
And soon Star Trek fans across the world will love them some Netflix too, because yesterday the news broke that the company has snapped up exclusive streaming rights to CBS’ new Star Trek TV series — and, five years from now, this could be the deal that proves as significant as Disney’s purchase of Star Wars.
Why Is This Such A Big Deal?
Here’s what you need to know about the Netflix deal: The 13-episode, so-far untitled Star Trek series co-created by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) will air each episode on Netflix in 188 countries within 24 hours of its US broadcast on CBS’ new streaming service, beginning January 2017. It’s bad news if you’re located in the US or Canada: you’ll still have to subscribe to CBS All Access.
But the really significant news is that all 727 episodes of the various Trek television series produced between 1966 and 2005 will arrive on Netflix before 2016 is out, including in the US and Canada. That effectively opens the world of Trek up to tens of millions of Netflix subscribers around the globe who may never have watched a single episode of The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, even if they have seen one of the recent movies.
It’s hard to imagine a better scenario for Paramount, whose Star Trek movies (the third of which in the new trilogy, Star Trek Beyond, hits theaters this weekend) have so far struggled to match the bigger blockbusters from Marvel and Fox at the box office. The studio nonetheless just announced that Star Trek 4 will follow Beyond before too long, and suddenly that announcement seems much less curious.
By the time that movie arrives in 2018 or ’19, around 35 million Netflix users (or more, considering the company’s rapid expansion) outside of the US will have had two years to embark on the mother of all binges. While the new TV series will undoubtedly benefit, the real rewards here are reserved for the movie franchise and the wider brand.
Cast your mind back to 2012. The reputation of the Star Wars franchise had taken such a hit, courtesy of George Lucas’ controversial (to put it mildly) prequel trilogy, that it was difficult to imagine the Jedi of a galaxy far, far away would ever again dominate Hollywood. The two trilogies were complete, there were no loose threads to justify a third, and it seemed the future of Star Wars would lie entirely in entirely in spin-off media such as animated series, books and video games.
And then Disney came along, paid $4bn to Lucasfilm for the rights, and within three years The Force Awakens had rejuvenated the series beyond even Kathleen Kennedy’s wildest dreams. For Trek, the situation is perhaps more complicated: While Beyond attracts the best reviews of the movies released this past decade, on the small screen appetite for new adventures from the crew of the Enterprise has not been enough for any TV network to take a chance on Trek in over a decade.
While Star Wars traded on the promise of something far better than the prequels, a righting of wrongs, to generate hype in the run up to The Force Awakens (the very definition of a safe, back-to-basics update) Star Trek will instead be looking back, using the hundreds of episodes at its disposal to tap into the current trend for nostalgia that’s evident everywhere in pop culture.
That nostalgia will bring the audience in just as Star Trek 4 welcomes Chris Hemsworth back into the fold for — already it sounds as though the sequel to Beyond will be the most ambitious of the modern movies. Over on Netflix, the TV show with a revolving crew from one season to the next. Unchained by expectations, Bryan Fuller can boldly take Trek where it’s never been before.
It’s the nature of entertainment that while some things become popular and then die, others move in cycles. The Netflix deal is no guarantee that Star Trek will ever again enjoy the vast popularity achieved in its heyday, but it’s by far the best shot it has at enjoying a major revival. Trek fans: This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Give her all she’s got, Captain!
5 Years From Now, Will Star Trek Dominate Pop Culture?
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.