ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, if there's one group of television enthusiasts you really don't want to get on the wrong side of, it's fans. With a lifetime's worth of Star Trek shows, movies, games and print adaptations to fall in love with, "Trekkies" have long been known as some of the most devoted fans around — as well as some of the easiest to anger. Which, of course, makes it somewhat unwise for a senior executive at a television network producing the latest incarnation of the franchise, , to make sweepingly broad and distinctly mis-interpretable statements about the show, or its fanbase. And yet...

A CBS Exec Just Revealed That He Doesn't Think Star Trek: Discovery Belongs On Television

Star Trek: Discovery/CBS
Star Trek: Discovery/CBS

Which, from the headline alone, has unsurprisingly caused a whole lot of uproar in the Star Trek fan community. After all, with Star Trek: Discovery's imminent broadcast set to take place online via rather than on itself, many fans are already primed for indignation. CBS Interactive CEO Jim Laznor's actual comments, though, aren't quite as controversial as they might initially sound. As he put during a recent podcast appearance:

"Sci-fi is not something that has traditionally done really well on broadcast... It’s not impossible, for the future, if somebody figures it out. And things like ‘Lost’ and ‘Heroes’ have had parts of, you know, sci-fi, but historically, a show like ‘Star Trek’ wouldn’t necessarily be a broadcast show, at this point."

Which, while perhaps a little pessimistic and conservative a position, is actually a subtly different statement from what crudely summarizing it may suggest.

Y'see, what Laznor is essentially saying is that the network doesn't perceive a big enough market on television to warrant paying for the show, but wants to make it anyway. The logic there presumably being that, considering its budget, and CBS' current ratings, Star Trek Discovery would likely need at least 7–10 million regular viewers (and a disproportionately high share of 18–49 viewers) in order to comfortably stay on the air in the face of cheaper, more popular alternatives. With the majority of established property-based "genre" shows like and struggling to attract 4 million viewers, that seems an optimistic prospect at best.

Which, as it turns out, might just mean that Laznor's seemingly anti-Trek comments are in fact a sign that he — and CBS — are keen to make Discovery as sustainable as possible, rather than throwing it into the wilds of network competition. After all, though '90s installments like , and were ratings successes (to varying degrees), the dwindling later years of the latter two shows, along with the wider failure of , seem to suggest that Laznor's suspicions would likely be born out in the real world.

[Star Trek: Enterprise/Paramount]
[Star Trek: Enterprise/Paramount]

In other words, Star Trek: Discovery may indeed "deserve" to be online, but not only as a result of the cold, cruel logic of ratings. Instead, its place online may be a reflection of its cultural importance. After all, no one wants it to get cancelled after Season 1, and a longer run may well prove far more likely online.

Which makes Laznor...the good guy? Or is this one of those Deep Space Nine sort of situations where everything is a realistically murky shade of grey? Either way, Star Trek: Discovery is set to arrive in May 2017, and quite honestly can't get here soon enough.

Still want more on Star Trek: Discovery, though? Never fear, we've got you covered right here.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is Discovery better off online at CBS All Access? Let us know below!

[Recode Media with Peter Kafka]


Latest from our Creators