Star Trek: Discovery Is Tearing the Streaming World Apart


    Star Trek: Discovery Is Tearing the Streaming World Apart

    When Gunnarsson began analyzing the streaming world 10 years ago, Hollywood studios were lax in how they sold the streaming rights to their services, seeing it as an unnecessary extra. The deals were experimental. “They did market by market, then did bigger global deals, then realized it’s not good for them and removed rights from Netflix—because they are completely disrupting their markets,” he says. “Now we’re in a world where they’re launching their own streaming services.” The removal of series and shows from mainstream platforms into others is the logical conclusion of that shift in how things work. Star Trek is just the latest victim of the global rights tug-of-war, and the likes of the US Office and Friends, both of which are no longer on Netflix in the US, could soon also vanish from Netflix worldwide. Services like NBC’s streaming platform Peacock, which launched in the UK and Ireland this week, are unlikely to keep their biggest shows sat on Netflix for long.

    Streaming services will soon have a difficult decision to make, says Johnana Gibson, Herchel Smith professor of intellectual property law at Queen Mary University of London: Whether they want a smaller share of a crowded market or decide to team up through cross-licensing arrangements to share content. “If the market leader is Netflix then that’s a further motivation for others to cooperate in such ways in order to compete with Netflix,” she says.

    Rosen is more blunt. “For Star Trek fans and ViacomCBS shareholders, it sucks,” he says. The latter, he believes, will be left carrying the can for the higher marketing expenses required to bring eyeballs to Star Trek on Paramount+, rather than leveraging the built-in benefits of Netflix’s massive audience. As for Netflix? It’s a loss, sure—but how big a loss is difficult to tell because there’s a dearth of data. How the company will plug the USS Discovery-shaped hole in its programming slate is clearer to Rosen. “The economics of producing its own content imply it will likely seek to produce the next Star Trek—and likely from a foreign country,” he says.

    Every streaming service is seeking to develop its own IP precisely so they don’t struggle when rightsholders pull the rug out from underneath them. “The number of originals is increasing across different platforms,” says Gunnarsson. “If you have a streaming service, you must have exclusive content. Netflix and Amazon have been doing this. All of them have.” In 2016, Netflix revealed it had a target for half its content to be original, home-grown series or movies. While it’s not there yet, 40 percent of Netflix programming in the United States is original to the streaming service—up from 16 percent in January 2019. At that pace, Netflix will reach their goal around this time next year. As original content becomes more vital, the future of beloved existing series on streaming services becomes threatened. “Anything a streaming service doesn’t own and has to license may disappear from a platform if not supported by an ongoing significant audience,” says Gibson.

    As for Star Trek, the universe is already expanding—and could expand at warp speed, says Rosen, aping the way Disney has built out the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With animated series about lower-ranked staffers on starships already streaming, future shows could delve deeper into the Star Trek canon. That could, in time, make Paramount+ a genuine Netflix rival—but there’s a long way to go. “I wouldn’t necessarily bet against them building a universe with that IP,” he says. “There are worse decisions they are making.”

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    Published at Fri, 19 Nov 2021 12:00:00 +0000

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