Programming Free-for-All Favors Consumer Power of Choice

Traditional TV networks are pulling out all stops to succeed with their non-traditional streaming platforms. CBS is launching a new “Star Trek” series in 2017, which will air exclusively on its CBS All Access app; HBO inked a deal with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart to create new content for HBO Now; and NBCUniversal is cranking out original series and specials for its Seeso comedy channel, due to launch in January. Meanwhile, Vice Media plans a 24/7-cable channel with A+E Networks.

Variety asks what’s behind this “free-for-all” in programming, and answers that the motivation “boils down to the industry adjusting to the new world order of viewer choice.” That means the need for a “wow” factor, says TDG Research senior analyst Joel Espelien, who notes that, “Netflix itself, Hulu and Amazon also learned the hard way that they can’t just be catalog content from third parties.”

videostreamSo, while CBS, HBO, NBCU and other traditional networks follow the generation migrating to on-demand and mobile platforms, an entity like Vice Media, big in the online world, seeks TV’s advertising dollars, which are still ten times the size of the digital ad market. “TV is not a mass-market, one-size-fits-all medium anymore,” says Espelien. “In any consumer market right now there is no turning the ratchet away from more consumer choice.”

The CBS reboot of “Star Trek” is one example of how a traditional player seeks to bridge both worlds, reports The New York Times. Because of the franchise’s loyal fan base, “Star Trek,” which is being developed in-house, is a good bet to succeed over-the-top. Alex Kurtzman, who was a writer and producer for the “Star Trek” movie in 2009, and the “Star Trek Into Darkness” film in 2013, will be the series executive producer.

Some Wall Street experts speculate that uptake of these new digital channels is slow. In a recent Q3 earnings call, CBS chief Leslie Moonves was peppered with questions about CBS All Access and the Showtime broadband service. The network denied disappointing subscriber numbers, especially in light of the fact that there’s been no major national marketing campaign.