It's still not clear whether or not streaming media company Netflix made serious overtures to CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures about possibly bringing Star Trek back in series form, a la "Arrested Development." But the decision-makers behind the franchise reportedly have much different plans.
If and when Star Trek returns to television, it will see a change from its network and syndication distribution model of the past. But instead of the new world of online streaming through companies like Netflix, CBS has its eye on a different home: premium cable.
"The television audience is rapidly changing, and serious, high-end programming just isn't found on the networks anymore," one person familiar with CBS' long-range programming mapping, who asked not to be named, told 1701News. "The success of the (last two) movies has forced everyone to take a cautious approach to the franchise, and no one wants to make the same mistakes of a decade ago."
That was when the last series to bear the name Star Trek, "Star Trek: Enterprise," was nearing its end on what was then known as UPN. At that point, science-fiction was taking a far different turn through franchises like "Battlestar Galactica," and later "The Walking Dead," but Paramount's gamble to treat the franchise like a potential blockbuster in a reboot proved there was still room in the genre for Star Trek.
The last thing CBS or Paramount wants, however, is oversaturation like it had at the end of the 20th century, when there were two Star Trek series on at the same time, and movies pumping out every couple years.
A premium cable run could be exactly what the studios are looking for, especially something that can help showcase Showtime, which really doesn't have any hits outside of "Homeland" on the level of "Game of Thrones" or "True Detective." And since Showtime is owned by CBS, the studio is going to look for in-house benefits of the Star Trek series, before looking to strike deals with others.
A cable run also would mean fewer episodes, and far more time to write and produce. Chances are, only 13 episodes would be made each year, instead of the standard 22 or even 24 that other Star Trek series have seen in the past. And longer hiatuses will help keep audience demand pent up, and allow for better cross-promotion between the television and film franchises — something that's difficult from the network perspective, or even from a Netflix streaming perspective.
Premium cable doesn't have a strong history in attracting science-fiction franchises, however. The most recent attempt was in 2011 when Starz lured the BBC "Doctor Who" spinoff "Torchwood" to America. But then again, "Torchwood" isn't Star Trek.
"You can't ignore the built-in fan base that already exists for Trek, and the new base generated from the last two pictures," the source said. "Star Trek commands a lot of respect, and why should anyone else benefit from any bump it creates?"
This, of course, has not been verified by Paramount or CBS in any way, and should be treated as rumor. But who knows, maybe the Netflix overtures are enough to finally get some wheels turning to bring Star Trek back to television for the first time in a decade.