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Netflix breaks new global licensing ground with 2017 CBS Star Trek series

Mon 18 Jul 2016

Netflix has announced that it will be streaming new episodes of the highly-anticipated Star Trek TV reboot within 24 hours of their first network showing when the project launches in early 2017 – in all of its 188 foreign territories.

However, north America is excluded from the deal, and Stateside Trek fans will have to resort to CBS’s own All Access digital subscription video-on-demand and live streaming service. No announcement has yet been made about how Canadians will be able to access the show via streaming.

In a release on the Netflix blog, Armando Nuñez, President and CEO at CBS Studios International, commented:

‘Star Trek’ is already a worldwide phenomenon and this international partnership will provide fans around the world, who have been craving a new series for more than a decade, the opportunity to see every episode virtually at the same time as viewers in the U.S. Thanks to our world-class partners at Netflix, the new ‘Star Trek’ will definitely be ‘hailing on all frequencies’ throughout the planet.’

The 2017 Star Trek series is the first to approach the traditional format of the 1960s show since series creator Gene Roddenberry rebooted the franchise with The Next Generation in the 1980s. By no mere coincidence, every single episode of Trek is currently gradually creeping into Netflix, and the company promises that all 727 existing episodes of Trek shows – from The Original Series (TOS) up to Enterprise – will be available worldwide by the end of this year.

Obtaining global licensing rights to such a popular franchise archive is a notable achievement in itself (depending on the time-constraints on the deal) – but bypassing the worldwide phalanx of regional rights distributors for the 2017 show is a coup that’s likely to have a major influence in the world of regional entertainment licensing.

Netflix fell into a well of controversy earlier in the year, when it followed up a massive global expansion with a crackdown on subscribers using VPNs to circumvent Netflix’s regional licensing restrictions, usually in order to access the far larger body of content available within the U.S. catalogue.

The VPN crackdown has made it impossible for privacy-loving VPN users to browse the web anonymously, forcing them to turn off their proxies before viewing any content (although several VPN companies now sell private IP addresses which are not likely to be added to the Netflix block-lists).

The company has frequently commented in the previous 12 months that it is seeking to reform the global regional licensing model which often prevents new shows from reaching foreign territories for years. Many new (and old) streaming ventures are determined to catch up on Netflix’s popularity, threatening to dilute the market and keep the licensing middlemen in business endlessly, and even a company as cash-rich as Netflix cannot create enough original popular content to prevent the market fracture.

So what it has negotiated with CBS for global distribution of a major new property looks to be a landmark change in the world of regional rights.


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