Why I love the ‘Star Trek’ streaming announcement

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 9.12.39 PMWill Star Trek do for CBS what House of Cards did for Netflix?

While I am curious to see what kind of Trek show eventually debuts on CBS in 2017, I’m more interested in seeing its impact on the network’s budding digital platform. Following this morning’s announcement that the new series was being developed for the streaming service, I tweeted that other networks should take notice. I’m sure they have, and local affiliates are taking notice too, because the day will come when all of the best network programming is only available through streaming.

Despite this whiny New York Post article’s claim that Trek is being relegated to a “second tier” platform, CBS knows exactly what it’s doing. This is just the next step in the company’s plan since launching All Access last year with a $5.99 per month subscription, which includes its own shows and content from local affiliates. The network is putting itself in a position in which it will no longer need the affiliates or cable companies to carry its programming. I’ve previously written that to combat this, affiliate companies need to keep developing their own original programming, or at least invest in digital media (Scripps acquiring podcaster Midroll is a great example of the latter).

That day may be far off into the future, but you can bet it’s on the mind of CEO Les Moonves, who hinted last year that the company was planning to produce digital-only programming. There’s even been talk of putting the NFL on All Access, which, pardon the expression, would be the ultimate game-changer. Star Trek is one thing, but you know how people go crazy for the football.

For now, Star Trek is the killer app that CBS hopes will get more people to sign up for All Access, just as House of Cards gave people a reason to subscribe to Netflix streaming (like the DVD business, the broadcast model isn’t what it used to be). Targeting the Trek audience is also a smart move; they are online, they are technophiles and early adopters, and they are dedicated to the franchise – they’ll pay the $6 to see a new series.

Even if you could care less about CBS programming, you have to salute the company for embracing the present – I’m not even going to say the future, digital is the now. All Access is not a second-tier platform, it’s the kind of service that every media company should have, especially the local affiliates, who risk someday losing out on quality programming that is streamed from someone else’s app.

Preemptions an opportunity to experiment with streaming, social

The National Football League on Sunday agreed to continue Thursday Night Football on CBS for the 2015-2016 season, according to Deadline.

There's a lot affiliates can do for viewers watching (and not watching) football.
There’s a lot affiliates can do for viewers watching (and not watching) football. 

The deal again gives the network a slate of eight prime-time games that will air simultaneously on NFL Network. Last year’s series wrapped on Oct. 23, a week before the start of November sweeps.

As Deadline notes, the 2014 Thursday Night Football matchups were not a ratings smash, but it would have been foolish not to continue the agreement, especially in a season in which the Super Bowl will be broadcast on CBS.

The prime-time games also present an opportunity to local affiliates who will find their programming preempted by football.

Back in the day, a sports preemption was considered a day off, and everyone in the newsroom breathed a little easier knowing their deadlines were extended a few hours.

But now I look at it differently. Now I think an on-air preemption is an opportunity to experiment with live programming online. Whether it’s a newscast or another live show, you can still produce content for viewers, a) not interested in the game, or, b) watching with a device in their hands.

The traditional newscast can still start online the same time it does every night, or you can try to come up with a new format that’s more appealing to an audience that gets all of their news online.

Those prime-time games also give local affiliates a chance to build their social brands – because you can be sure CBS and NFL Network will be doing just that while they have a captive audience.

Before the season starts, come up with a social game plan to engage the viewer during Thursday Night Football. Get your followers involved before game time, let them debate the players and showcase their fandom. Find the fan bar in your city and have your team post up for the night. Share the viewer experience in the social space while you continue to deliver news content on the live stream.

Audience engagement is more valuable than game highlights on the nightly news, so you need a streaming and social plan for preemptions. You’ll be glad you did on those nights when Tampa Bay visits Atlanta and the final score is 56-14.

That really happened. Week 3.

The new news

A snapshot of the CBSN live feed
A snapshot of the CBSN live feed

Just weeks after announcing a subscription streaming app for local programming, CBS on Thursday launched an ad-supported streaming news feed that could lure viewers away from traditional cable news networks.

The service, called CBSN, is available online and via set-top devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Viewers will see a live feed and have the ability to view to go back and view previously-streamed videos.

When I checked it out this morning, I saw a mix of live “new” news and some stories that I’d already read online yesterday, such as this CBS This Morning piece on Las Vegas targeting millennial customers. That just shows that programming content for a streaming channel is no more challenging than it is for broadcast and cable. The difference is you’re not bound by the same time restrictions when you’re dealing with online content, so you get to expand stories if you want to.

This is a smart move for CBS, it’s going where the viewers are and will be in the future. It’s major competitors have surely taken notice, and I think even the local affiliates should be having conversations right now about expanding their programming lineup via streaming channels.

Does that mean more streaming newscasts when they’re not on-the-air? CBSN offers 15 hours of live, anchored programming. What can local affiliates deliver?

Should it be more news, or another type of programming? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.