What's Behind CBS and Viacom's Growth Strategy? More 'Star Trek'

Star Trek Beyond Chris Pine - H Publicity 2016
Kimberley French/Paramount Pictures

Netflix has nabbed international rights to the all-new TV series streaming exclusively on CBS All Access beginning January 2017.

Perhaps Reed Hastings, not Jeff Bezos, should have cameoed in Star Trek Beyond. After all, on July 18, Hastings' Netflix nabbed international rights to CBS' upcoming Star Trek reboot television series from Bryan Fuller — beating out Bezos' Amazon Prime, which now streams the entire Star Trek TV catalog. (Financial details were not disclosed.)

What that means for Netflix is the ability to air each episode of the new show, set to debut in January, to customers in 188 countries — minus the U.S., where users will need to sign up for the new CBS All Access streaming service, and Canada, where it will air on Bell Media outlets. Netflix also picked up worldwide rights to CBS' Trek catalog, giving the streamer all episodes of the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. Those episodes — 727 in all — will be available on Netflix worldwide by the end of 2016. "We do expect general international market trends to see a lift from the rollout of Star Trek content," writes Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris.

As CBS was lining up Star Trek's TV future, sister company Viacom was busy extending the film franchise. Days before Star Trek Beyond debuts July 22, Paramount revealed it is moving at warp speed on a fourth chapter. Justin Lin, who helmed Beyond, is not expected to return for the film that will find Chris Pine's Captain Kirk crossing paths with his father (played by Chris Hemsworth). Because George Kirk died in 2009's Star Trek, time travel likely will be involved.

Moves for more Star Trek couldn't come at a better time for CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves and Viacom leader Philippe Dauman. Moonves is attempting to position the All Access service as an attractive add-on for cord-cutters or -nevers with a Netflix or Amazon subscription, and a brand with a devoted fan base like Star Trek could help the recruitment effort.

More significantly (or, rather, more desperately), the embattled Dauman is attempting to orchestrate the sale of a 49 percent stake in Paramount against the apparent wishes of controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone. (There has been speculation that deep-pocketed Chinese investors, including Wanda Group, already are in late-stage talks pending a resolution of litigation over the company's future.) Big box office for Beyond, which scored a coveted China release, and lining up the next Trek could boost the perceived value of a struggling studio that lacks the franchises of some rivals. Similarly, Paramount has announced new Transformers films.

Of course, Dauman might not get the chance to finalize a Paramount deal. Shari Redstone is trying to force him out of the chairman post, citing the preferences of her 93-year-old father. Dauman, who earned $54.2 million in fiscal 2015, even filed paperwork with the SEC laying the groundwork to keep severance payments if he's forced out — meaning even if he doesn't live long enough at the company to see more Star Trek, he certainly would prosper.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.