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Want to follow ‘Star Trek: Discovery’? Be prepared to pay up

Matthew Lane • Sep 27, 2017 at 12:30 PM

KINGSPORT — If you’re trying to discover how to watch the new Star Trek show on CBS, you might not be happy with the answer.

Quite frankly, it’s left me feeling rather “caged.”

The new show — “Star Trek: Discovery” — is set a decade before the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The show debuted Sunday and had as its premise the beginnings of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.

It’s been 12 years since a Star Trek show has been on television, and given the lackluster success of the previous series “Enterprise,” Star Trek fans everywhere should be excited and enthused that their beloved geek property is getting another chance in prime time.

Plus, the new show will provide an opportunity to bring the next generation of fans into the Starfleet fold.

So how does an aspiring ensign go about watching this exciting show? Well, it’s not as bad as finding your way out of the Delta Quadrant, but it is pretty annoying.

If you’re in the United States, the only way you can watch new episodes of “Discovery” is by subscribing to CBS All Access — the company’s fledgling streaming service. The cost is $5.99 a month or $9.99 a month if you don’t want to see the commercials.

If you’re like me and already have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, the thought of adding yet another streaming service to your repertoire just sounds ... illogical. Granted, you do get access to nearly 10,000 episodes of other CBS shows and specials, including every “Star Trek” TV series (yes, even the animated one), so if you’re a Trekker, the deal is pretty sweet.

One minor annoyance. CBS is letting folks watch the first episode of “Discovery” for free. If you want to see the second half, then you’ll have to pony up.

As for our neighbors to the north, Canadians can enjoy the new show on the Space Channel at the regular airing time of 8:30 p.m. No extra subscription necessary. If they can’t catch it there, Canucks can also watch “Discovery” on various On Demand channels and the Space Go app.

And if that isn’t annoying enough, folks living outside the United States and Canada will be able to watch “Discovery” on Netflix the day after it airs on Sunday night.

That’s right: Everywhere else in the world has a cheaper and easier way to watch “Discovery.” The country that created and made Star Trek the phenomenon it is today, has to jump through hoops and shell out extra money just to the watch the new show.

CBS’ decision to make “Discovery” an app-only exclusive in the United States is a bold enterprise, to say the least.

But will it pay off? Did this little experiment result in strong viewership and signups for CBS All Access?

According to the company, the premiere episode drew 8.2 million views, making it one of the most viewed programs of the night. CBS also said “Discovery” helped the platform set a single-day record for registrations, though the company did not release specific numbers.

However, viewership of the pilot episode lags pretty far behind when compared to its predecessors. “Enterprise” brought in 12.5 million viewers for its debut episode; “Voyager,” 21.3 million and “The Next Generation,” 15.7 million. Sorry, could find no numbers for “Deep Space Nine.”

CBS executives have said multiple times the company has no interest in airing “Discovery” on its network, or its sister networks, anytime soon. Which means we’re stuck with the app or utilizing other questionable means.

After a quick trip around the Internet, I found plenty of people upset about “Discovery,” how it doesn’t feel like Star Trek, and how they shouldn’t have to pay an extra fee just to watch the show. I’m not going to get into a debate about the “One True Way” when it comes to “Discovery.” I'm going to judge the show based on its merits and whether it entertains me.

Though I would like to take the $6 monthly fee and toss it into deep space. That seems highly logical, right?

Matthew Lane covers Kingsport government for the Times-News.

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