Are The Latest Star Trek Rumors Marketing Research For ViacomCBS?
There is no question that the Star Trek franchise has been a roller-coaster ride over the last few months, although it’s probably more accurate to describe it as a ride that constantly plummets without actually any high points.
Not only is the franchise probably at its lowest creatively, but there are constant rumors about the future plans for Star Trek. Some of the latest rumors include a Captain Pike spin-off starring Anson Mount, a Star Trek: Discovery movie, and a Voyager spin-off in the vein of Picard starring Captain Janeway.
The Latest Rumors
Some of the latest rumors regarding Star Trek indicate Star Trek: Discovery has already been renewed for a fifth season, before season three has even aired.
That rumor came from Geeks World Wide. They reported, “CBS is planning on shooting seasons 4 and 5 back-to-back. Production will take place in Pinewood Studios, Toronto, Canada.”
There’s also been a rumor that CBS is developing a Captain Pike spin-off series starring Ansoun Mount. The series would follow “Pike and his crew as they take the Enterprise out on a new five-year mission to explore strange new worlds.”
Another rumor from We Got This Covered indicated that CBS was planning a “Defenders-style Star Trek crossover.” They report, “the network wants to do a big crossover series modeled after Marvel and Netflix’s The Defenders.” They go on to detail the crossover would include characters from Discovery, Picard, Section 31, and the rumored Captain Pike series.
The latest rumor from We Got This Covered indicated CBS is discussing an old Captain Janeway series in the vein of Picard. They explain, “CBS wants to test the waters for the project by bringing Mulgrew back in a future season of Picard.”
Not only have there been plenty of rumors regarding the future of the TV franchise, but there has also been plenty of activity on the film front as well. The latest reports see Noah Hawley working on a Star Trek film with a rumor indicating the initial pitch had been rejected. But before those reports, Quentin Tarantino was discussing doing an R-Rated Star Trek film.
Wasn’t the merger of the two holders of Star Trek’s rights supposed to bring some semblance of balance to the Trek universe? You’d think that with the rights finally under a single roof it’d be easier to manage the franchise.
Now obviously these are just rumors, but given there are so many of them and they are so wildly different could it be possible that ViacomCBS is actually behind these rumors and pushing them out to test the waters. Especially since head of Star Trek at CBS Alex Kurtzman has already mapped out a five year plan for the series that does not include many of what these rumors claim.
It’s not an unheard of theory. We’ve seen this with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Do They Know What To Do With Star Trek?
Honestly, it seems to me the studio isn’t quite sure what to do with the franchise since both the movie rights and television rights are now back under one roof, ViacomCBS.
CBS CEO David Nevins’ recently spoke to Deadline about where they want to take the franchise, “We want it to get younger and more relevant to people.”
What is that supposed to mean? Does Nevins believe that Star Trek isn’t relevant to enough people? Or are those who’ve been faithful to the franchise not a concern to CBS.
If that doesn’t scream tone deaf I don’t know what does. It shows that the current heads of the franchise aren’t interesting in courting Trek fans, instead they’re betting on expanding the fan base by creating a more bland and generic sci-fi show given what they’ve given us in Picard and Discovery.
Not to mention that Simon Pegg, who co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, has stated that CBS doesn’t really know what’s going on with their film franchise. When asked about a possible film from director Noah Hawley, Pegg stated, “No, I don’t know anything about it. I think Noah Hawley’s been hired to write something for Star Trek, which is very exciting because he’s a brilliant writer and always creates interesting stuff.”
He added, “Whether or not we are involved in that, I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
Not only does CBS want to make Star Trek “more relevant,” and seemingly doesn’t have plans to continue their Star Trek film franchise with the current cast, but they are also driving their hardcore fans away.
Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez roasted Picard, calling it a soap opera on Twitter.
Thing is, it’s entertaining for me, same as discovery, but in a way Trek never was to me. It’s soap opera now, sensationalistic and seemingly pure surface level titillation. It doesn’t matter how or why things connect so long as you’re thrilled by shocking twists and turns.
— Jhonen Vasquez (@JhonenV) March 14, 2020
Any hint of charm or genuine thoughtfulness in Star Trek Picard feels weird and out of place tonally, like a party clown doing something actually funny just before he starts crying, shits himself and blows his brains out, collapses to the floor and explodes.
— Jhonen Vasquez (@JhonenV) March 14, 2020
Vasquez wasn’t the only one to roast Picard. Mike and Rich from Red Letter Media also eviscerated the show for not only ignoring elements of canon, but for creating a show that in essence when it comes to tone, themes and just writing wasn’t Star Trek at all.
Gary Buechler from Nerdrotic pointed out how the show, and the franchise as it is, is a complete departure to the vision that franchise creator Gene Roddenberry had for Star Trek:
YouTuber The Script Doctor described the show as “a series of bandages wrapped around countless lacerations and broken bones”
YouTuber Doomcock also roasted Star Trek: Picard in his own colorful and entertaining way.
Why would CBS Leak Information?
One only has to look at the company’s stock stock over the last five years to see that no matter the good news the company attempts to pump out to investors, investor confidence in the studio isn’t where it used to be.
Now that’s not to say this is purely Star Trek’s fault, but the franchise has been placed behind CBS All Access’ paywall and investors don’t seem too keen on it. Even ViacomCBS doesn’t seem too keen on it as they recently announced they would be rolling out a new streaming service that would include CBS All Access.
Looking at their stock value over the last five years, you can see it had been consistently declining since 2017, with a dramatic drop at the beginning of 2020. The studio’s stock has taken more twists and turns than a Mario Cart game.
But if you look at recent numbers it gets even worse given they significantly missed revenue targets. (Find the number they missed)
However, ViacomCBS President & CEO Bob Bakish painted a rosy picture for CBS All Access and the Star Trek franchise. He praised Star Trek: Picard for breaking CBS All Access records for total streams and subscriber sign ups. He said it “broke our records for total streams & subscriber sign-ups”.
But he didn’t actually provide any numbers. It’s hard to believe his claims without those numbers. In contrast, former Disney CEO Bob Iger did reveal Disney Plus subscription sign-ups. If CBS All Access sign-ups were as good as Bakish makes them sound wouldn’t he want to brag about how many they got?
Even if they did get a healthy number of streams, it’s more than likely front-loaded and it’s hard to imagine people actually decided to continue watching given the numbers coming out of Canada.
In Canada people were quick to tune out of Picard. The penultimate episode only saw viewership at 1.183 million. That’s down over 600,000 viewers from the premiere episode, which was 1.851 million viewers. That’s a 56.4% decline in viewership in just nine episodes.
Has CBS Outsourced Their Focus Groups Via The Internet?
Yes, I definitely think ViacomCBS is using these rumors to gauge interest in what ideas audiences might be willing to spend their hard-earned money on. They want to see what the reaction to these rumors and theories are, and in turn potentially shape the future of the franchise around it.
That’s what I believe is happening. It’s not that certain websites are outright making up stories, its that they’re being used as an extension of ViacomCBS’ marketing research arm because they aren’t sure what direction Star Trek should go.