Leslie Moonves Explains Why 'Star Trek' Went to CBS All Access

Star Trek Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Photofest

Star Trek Still - H 2015

One of the most common responses to news that Star Trek was returning to the small screen was the surprise that it would run on CBS' digital VOD subscription platform, CBS All Access.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday during its third-quarter earnings call, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves explained why Star Trek is boldly going where it's never gone before.

"A lot of conversation went into what we were going to do [with Star Trek]. All Access is very important," Moonves told analysts, stressing that CBS will remain both a content supplier of second-window fare for Netflix as well as a competitor.

"We remain a good partner for Netflix and Hulu. Star Trek is a family jewel; it's an important piece of business for us as we go forward," said Moonves. "We're looking to do original content on All Access and build up that platform. Netflix is our friend a competitor. They compete with [CBS Corp.'s] Showtime. All Access will put out original content and knowing the loyalty of Star Trek fans, this will boost it. … There's about a billion channels out there and because of Star Trek, people will know what All Access is about." 

CBS announced Monday that its new Star Trek series, which hails from its sibling studio, would be executive produced by Alex Kurtzman. The series will premiere in January 2017 on the network with subsequent episodes produced exclusively for its digital subscription VOD platform, CBS All Access. Star Trek will be the first original scripted series produced specifically for its digital platform and comes as every series in the cult classic is already part of All Access' programming library. Moonves also stressed that Star Trek will be the first of a scripted expansion for All Access.

The executive also stressed that all of the Star Trek series have done "exceedingly well" in streaming on All Access and noted that the beloved franchise still "resonates today."

"All the series have done well in terms of streaming, he said. "Added in to that, Star Trek is a huge international franchise. Our international distribution guy is going crazy; he can't wait to get out to the marketplace and sell that. Right away, we're more than halfway home on the cost of the show from international alone. The risk is small in seeing the track record. We think it'll be great and bring in a lot more subscribers. We're really excited about it."

Star Trek 2017 will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. The next series comes four months after the beloved franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary.

While Moonves declined to provide the total number of subscribers, he revealed that All Access posted its largest subscriber growth yet in September and recently debuted on Apple TV.

Moonves opened the call by noting that the company can "live long and prosper" with a nod to the property. He said additional announcements about Star Trek — both behind and in front of the camera —  would be coming soon.

"[Star Trek 2017 is a] world-class effort that will make all Star Trek fans proud," he said, calling Trekkies the "most passionate fans in the world." Moonves anticipated "millions" signing up for All Access, which will allow diehards to watch the new series any time, any place and on any device they'd like — a move the exec said is consistent with how many viewers are watching CBS' content.

Going forward, Moonves said that there have been conversations about offering a $9.99 ad-free version of All Access to compete with Hulu's similarly launched effort.