CBS TV Studios has woken up to the fact that Star Trek is the dilithium that powers its warp engines. Hiding the new Trek series Star Trek: Discovery behind the CBS All Access paywall may not have been their best idea, but they appear to be acknowledging that fact by launching a new business unit to expand the Star Trek brand beyond their streaming service.
The new group will be headed by CBS Studios executive Veronica Hart, who will now have the title of Executive Vice President, Star Trek Global Franchise Management. That’s quite a mouthful, but it’s a powerful statement. CBS finally realizes that they can’t just let the crown jewel of their entertainment empire drift along. It needs a strong hand at the helm, and Veronica Hart is it.
Hart will work with Star Trek franchise captain Alex Kurtzman, who’s in charge of the creative side of the Trek TV galaxy. The new group will, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “explore ways to grow the Star Trek fan community via additional branding opportunities, including podcasts, a revamped StarTrek.com, new digital spaces, consumer products (including video games) and live events.”
Their statement sounds pretty good to us, especially that all important phrase, “grow the Star Trek fan community.” This may be a recognition that there is some ground to make up with the fan community after a series of troubling missteps with the franchise which had some fans reactions ranging from confusion to revulsion, along with law suits where CBS and Paramount have gone after fan film productions in court.
As an aside, they may not realize that podcasts don’t really work unless they’re done by the fans. Podcasts are social proof that a show is worth fans spending the time talking about it. If some major podcast outlet does it, it’s just flashes of interest here and there, doing little direct good for building up Trek fandom. If the studio does it directly, it will likely be perceived as faked fandom – and end up as yet another black eye. CBS may have a little ways to go before they finally “get” what fandom is about.
“Veronica and her team are not only gifted brand strategists and veteran consumer products executives, they are also experts on the Star Trek canon,” said CBS TV Studios president David Stapf. “We are excited to launch this new business unit because the brand has an enormously rabid fan base, and we look forward to expanding its reach even further.”
Hart’s team includes John Van Citters, vp Star Trek brand development, Yasmin Elachi, director of Star Trek content, and Gabrielle Oliff, director of global franchise management operations. They will be based at the Santa Monica offices of Kurtzman’s production company, Secret Hideout.
CBS Studios already has Star Trek: Discovery and short-form spinoff Short Treks on streamer CBS All Access, and has greenlit a series centered on Patrick Stewart’s Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and an adult animated series, Lower Decks, from Rick and Morty writer-producer Mike McMahan.
There is also a new animated series aimed at kids headed to Nickelodeon, and a second animated show for adults, a Discovery spinoff centered on Michelle Yeoh‘s character and a Starfleet Academy series, all in development at CBS All Access.
Veronica Hart’s new role signals that CBS is finally finally embracing Star Trek from a global business strategy standpoint and taking it seriously – a move long overdue.