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CBS Interactive exploring ways to help improve older Star Trek series

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The service isn't looking to compete with Netflix

CBS All Access, the streaming service that the network is essentially relaunching next year, will bring four new series to subscribers, but president of CBS Interactive Mark DeBevois said that they're just as committed to some of the older shows available.

During his keynote presentation at the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, DeBevois said that CBS was working on ways to rework the look of some of the earlier Star Trek series. The biggest part of the project would be making them accessible for subscribers in HD without affecting the original aesthetic, and because of that fine line, DeBevois said it has taken the team at Interactive some time to figure out.

"There are technical difficulties with the original Trek that we keep running into," DeBevois said. "We're looking at the back catalogue and constantly working on it. We're figuring it out as we go."

As DeBevois and his team plan for the 2017 slate of original series, much of their attention is on Star Trek Discovery, the newest series from Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller. The show is set 10 years before the events of the original Star Trek series and will feature a female lead. The series marks a first for CBS All Access — an original show that will air weekly on the streaming service in both Canada and the United States and on Netflix in 135 other countries.

The network is investing heavily in the new series and is hoping that Star Trek will be a big enough pull to build up a new subscriber base, particularly in the 18-3year-old demographic. DeBevois said they had done preliminary research on the show's potential and the results were better than what they expected.

"Two-to-five million viewers watched the original series when it first appeared on Netflix," DeBevois said. "And that was before Netflix had 45 million subscribers. Seventy-eight million people have seen the original series since it's been syndicated, and according to our research, there's potential for an audience of more than 15 million people when the show premieres next year."


To put that number into context, a finale for Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, two of the most popular shows on television that dominate weekly ratings, pulls in anywhere from 9 million and 18 million viewers. That's on a premium cable or broadcast network, with each show having at least six seasons under their belts. Fifteen million viewers for Star Trek Discovery's premiere may seem a bit unrealistic, but unfortunately, people will never know. Like Netflix, DeBevois said that CBS has no plans to release ratings for any of its series.

"We're not planning on releasing individual statistics on shows," DeBevois said. "But as we get closer to laying things out and looking at the data that comes in, we will share some trends that we're seeing."

Like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, All Access doesn't need to abide by broadcast standards and practices when it comes to the type of content it's allowed to show, and the company doesn't need to send its viewership numbers to Nielsen, one of the major viewership analytics firms in the industry. In many ways, All Access has quite a bit in common with Netflix, but DeBevois said they're definitely not trying to compete.

"We're working closely with Netflix on Star Trek," DeBevois said. "To say that we think of them as a competitor wouldn't be true."

One of the biggest differences DeBevois pointed out was how many shows and the type of shows each service brings to its subscribers. The four series coming to All Access — Discovery, a Big Brother spinoff, a Good Wife spinoff and an unannounced show — are all based on CBS properties. While CBS plans to increase the number of original series subscribers can access through the service, it doesn't plan to ever compete with Netflix, which will have 71 original series by next year.

"We're here to compliment CBS," DeBevois said. "We co-exist with the number one network on television and that's what makes All Access special."

Currently, subscribers have access to all of CBS current shows, live programming and catalogue of series that are now off the air. All Access costs $6.99 a month.