Free Range Trek?

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Time To Admit it Star Trek Fans, If You’re Complaining About Having To Subscribe To CBS All Access To See Discovery, You’re Either Cheap Or Kind Of Dumb

If you live south of the border and you want to subscribe to CBS’ digital streaming service CBS All Access, you have two options. You can pay $5.99 a month to watch content with commercials while the ad free option runs $9.99 a month. Right now, CBS All Access customers have access to a sizeable library of archived television content (the reruns of all the CSI franchises and Survivor will keep you busy for at least a month), news, the NFL and a little original content on the side.

Two weeks ago CBS added Star Trek: Discovery-the next and very long awaited chapter in the ongoing Star Trek saga-to All Access’ menu of original content, premiering Discovery on their broadcast network while making all future episodes available on CBS All Access. And the caterwauling has been epic.

The complaining about Discovery’s online home was fierce in the months leading up to its premiere. Many Star Trek fans used it’s exclusive online presence as the foundation of their contempt while plenty of others felt it was evidence that the show was a bomb waiting to happen (which was why CBS was hiding it behind a pay wall). But now that three episodes have seen the light of day (all to pretty solid reviews and generally favourable viewer reaction), those fans seem even more pissed.

While many won’t admit to it, but they were secretly hoping Discovery would be terrible so they would be justified in both ignoring it and tearing it down at the same time. But in the weeks since Discovery debuted, the narrative surrounding the shown has gone from why it will be the worst thing on television (which had been an ongoing discussion before the show premiered-especially among Trek fandom) to whether or not the show is good enough to warrant a subscription to All Access to why CBS is horrible for putting it behind a paywall.

The day after Discovery premiered, the comment section on io9.com-which regularly ran negative hit pieces on the for nearly a year before Discovery even debuted-discussed whether or not it was worth the price of a subscription, with many “fans” declaring they wouldn’t subscribe even after admitting it was pretty good (or much better than they were expecting). Some declared they would never subscribe based on principle alone, though piracy was definitely an option (because you know, principles).

Now keep in mind, unlike previous Trek shows (and standard episodic broadcast fare in general), Discovery’s first season will be 15 episodes in length. CBS will be making one new episode available a week (sorry binge watchers) but will split the season into two halves. The first nine episodes will be available this year with the remaining ones being made available in January. In short, the entire first season should be done by March.

That means as long as you can live with commercials (something we’ve all spent the first few decades of our lives getting accustomed to), you can see Discovery’s entire first season for the grand total of thirty dollars (and that isn’t including the possibility of a free month with subscription). Or if you can wait a couple of months and binge watch the entire first season this spring for the mortgage breaking sum of six whole dollars.

And all of that is presuming you don’t find anything else on All Access worth the subscription (according to CBS, there are currently over 9000 episodes available to stream).

In conclusion, you can see the entire first season for as little as six dollars and a little bit of patience. If you don’t have the patience to spare and commercials are against your religion, the most you’ll have to invest is thirty green backs. Season one will likely cost well north of that when it comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD, probably next spring or summer. It’ll probably even be much higher than that on iTunes. So if its money your complaining about, either math isn’t your forte or you’re just really, really cheap.

Besides, if you are really concerned about having to pay an extra six whole dollars for four or five hours worth of entertainment a month, maybe try cancelling a few of those cooking channels you never watch. While some may accuse me of looking through rose coloured glasses because we can see Discovery on Space (Canada’s science fiction channel), aren’t we always hearing how American cable companies offer their customers more competition, more flexible viewing packages and cheaper rates? Maybe now wouldn’t be such a bad time to take advantage of that superior American consumerism.

The humorous thing is that many of the sites I’ve seen complaining about this and many of the people I’ve seen crying foul online are always preaching how streaming is the future of the medium while traditional broadcasting is an obsolete dinosaur. And they’re absolutely right, except, apparently, when it inconveniences them. Is CBS being a bit heavy handed? Yep. Are there ways they could have handled this a bit better, like airing the entire first season (or the first half, at least) on CBS proper before moving it to CBS All Access? You betcha. But pirating the show will only result in its cancellation, not in any changed corporate minds.

Is a lot of this complaining a result of an audience that’s been entitled for too long? An audience used to pirating music and having their appetite for media and entertainment sated for free more times than not? I think there’s some merit to that question, but it may also be time to come to terms that if you want quality content, you are going to have to pay for it. CBS has reported that subscriptions (at least for the mobile app) sky-rocketed after Discovery premiered. Unfortunately, it has also become one of the most pirated shows on the planet.

Star Trek is about boldly going where no one has gone before, so it’s tragic that so much of the fandom the franchise has forged over the past fifty plus years is so shortsighted or blinded by selfishness. If Discovery fails (and even as someone who enjoyed the first few episodes, I realize that’s a very real possibility), it should be on its weaknesses as a show and not because too many self-proclaimed fans are ether selfish or refuse to embrace the future.

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