What’s the easiest way to tell that we’re in the midst of a television programming revolution? Just look at what the networks, the dinosaurs of the industry, are doing to keep up. On Tuesday, CBS detailed its plans for its prospective Netflix competitor “CBS All Access,” a monthly subscription-based online service that will use a new Star Trek show to try and reel in viewers. But where Netflix’s strategy is to become a vast repository of original content, dumping whole seasons of original shows at a time for people to sample at their leisure, CBS is trying to hold onto the weekly model that has defined broadcast strategy for decades. That compromise is currently untested, but it could be the future of the medium.
According to a conference call held with reporters by CBS’s president, Les Moonves, the new Star Trek series will debut in January 2017, with one episode released per week. It’s not much different from how CBS airs its programs now, except that “All Access” will cost an extra $6 a month. The news that Star Trek was returning to TV excited devoted fans of the franchise, but online chatter mostly focused on how quickly they’d be able to watch the season before unsubscribing from the service. The fan site TrekCore acknowledges, sadly, that such a “binge and bail” tactic won’t be possible—which is exactly what CBS wants. As cable cord-cutting grows more common among younger viewers, networks need to find a new way into their pockets, which is why the weekly cliffhanger may not be going anywhere anytime soon.