CBS’ streaming service, CBS All Access, credits a trio of high-profile events — including the premiere of its new Star Trek series, “Star Trek: Picard,” as well as the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, not to mention a busy month of football — with helping it to achieve a new record for subscriber sign-ups in a given month. The company says January 2020 surpassed the service’s previous record in February 2019 for subscriber sign-ups. In addition, last week was the second-best sign-up week ever, closely behind the week of the 2019 Super Bowl.
Much of the record-setting had to do with the launch of the highly anticipated show, “Star Trek: Picard,” which brings back fan-favorite Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, now a retired Starfleet Admiral whose quiet life on his family’s vineyard is about to be disrupted. The show, set 18 years after the events of the final “Star Trek: The Next Generation” movie, “Star Trek: Nemesis,” not only capitalizes on Stewart’s draw, it also brings back previous “Star Trek” actors including Brent Spiner (Data), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Marina Sirtis (Troi), and Jonathan Frakes (Riker).
But unlike other reboots, which hope nostalgia alone will bring the viewers, “Picard’s” creators have actually given thought to the story the show is trying to tell, resulting in a 95% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.
CBS says the premiere of “Picard” also marked a new record for total streams and drove the highest volume of subscribers to stream a CBS All Access original series to date.
“Picard” was up by more than 115% in terms of total streams, when compared to CBS All Access’s first record, which was by its other “Star Trek” show, the less well-received “Star Trek: Discovery.” It was also up by 180+% over “Discovery’s” prior record for subscribers streaming a CBS All Access original.
Meanwhile, CBS said last night’s Grammys were the most-streamed to date and a new record for sign-ups on a Grammys Sunday, surpassing 2019 by more than 80% in new sign-ups and more than 30% in unique viewers on the service.
However, what CBS won’t talk about is the total number of subscribers for CBS All Access alone, nor does it break out how many have upgraded to the ad-free tier.
Instead, the company only shares that CBS All Access and Showtime’s over-the-top service, combined, have more than 10 million total subscribers.
In any event, that figure puts it far behind streaming rivals like Netflix and Hulu, with 61 million U.S. subscribers and 29 million subscribers, respectively. Even newcomers like Disney+ and Apple TV+ have boomed. Disney+ is estimated to have somewhere between 23.2 million and 25 million subscribers. One estimate believes Apple TV+ could be even bigger, but the analyst firm’s methodology is questionable. (After all, Apple TV+ may be available to users with a new Apple device for free for a year, but that doesn’t mean users are watching the service, nor will pay for it later on.)
In short, what these figures mean is CBS needs more than football, seasonal events and a new “Star Trek” series in order to grow. Even if “Star Trek: Picard” becomes a hit, fans who come for “Star Trek” alone are likely to sign up only when the show is airing, then unsubscribe in the off-season. Some may even wait to watch the series until they can binge it all — possibly even during a free trial period.
But as the newly combined ViacomCBS, the company now has options. ViacomCBS’ top execs have indicated they could bring Nickelodeon, BET, MTV and Comedy Central shows to CBS All Access as a result of the Viacom-CBS merger. The company believes it can hit 25 million CBS All Access subscribers by 2022.
“We’ve seen tremendous continued growth in the service, and the new records we’ve experienced due to ‘Star Trek: Picard,’ the Grammy’s and a fantastic season of football are a phenomenal way to kick off what will be a fantastic year for CBS All Access,” said Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer, ViacomCBS, and president and CEO, CBS Interactive. “CBS All Access continues to build upon its great mix of programming — from original series, to sports and special events — and we’ve strategically programmed 2020 to bring subscribers an ‘always on’ calendar of must-watch series and events,” he added.