Distribution is a Mishmash of Licensing
When CBS made the decision to put Star Trek Discovery onto their new streaming service, CBS All Access, instead of their television network, it set a precedent for what the distribution of the production was going to look like around the world. A mishmash of licensing and rights.
In Canada, for example, a local streaming service named CraveTV purchased the rights to stream Discovery there. For another 188 countries, Netflix put out a lot of money and purchased the rights to stream the show in those places.
Excitement has been building for months through social media and conventions. CBS has been putting out PR videos on social media, much to the delight of some Trek fans. But those same videos are angering some people as the majority of Star Trek fans aren’t allowed to watch them. That’s because CBS has been geofensing their video content.
Geofensing is where video or other content won’t play if you’re not in the specified country or region. The videos being blocked include trailers, interviews, and other sneak peeks. All the types of things that are generally used to promote a series.
Intensifying Backlash Directed at CBS
With the release of the second Star Trek Discovery trailer, there has been intensifying backlash directed at CBS for blocking most fans from being able to watch them. To be clear, fans aren’t complaining about streaming episodes in other countries – the series doesn’t even air until September 24th. They’re complaining they can’t watch the PR for the show as expected.
Take this thread for example, where @StarTrekCBS (the official twitter account of Star Trek Discovery) Tweets a video and is immediately blasted by fans unable to view it.
That’s what the majority of Star Trek fans around the world see when they attempt to view the video in the Tweet. Essentially everyone outside the USA.
We asked CBS why content might be blocked for the international fan-base.
“These Star Trek fans based outside of the US are unable to view as Netflix is distributing internationally in 188 countries and Bell Media’s Space channel and OTT service CraveTV is in Canada. The Star Trek: Discovery trailers are available through their own, separate social channels.”
But it’s not just the trailer and it isn’t just this video. Indeed every video that StarTrekCBS has been putting into the public arena are being blocked in the majority of countries. Not just on Twitter, but also on their YouTube channel and on their Facebook page. In fact every medium that CBS publishes their videos to are blocked, including their own website (though the website and text content are available).
Such a move almost guarantees a backlash. Especially when it comes to Star Trek fans, who are known to be quite passionate when it comes to their “beloved” show. Here, for example, is some of the immediate backlash which dominates the thread mentioned above. What would generally be a discussion over the details of the content instead became about frustrations at the inability to view it.
It’s Not Just CBS
Of course licensing rights can be a thorn in the side of any fan. It’s generally the responsibility of the local licensee to make shows available within their region for their customer base, and often local advertising becomes their responsibility as well. It’s based on business models of yesteryear that will likely to die some day, but for now it’s the way things work – and fans are the ones paying for it.
We wanted to clarify with CBS and ask them why video interviews and other non-trailer videos are being blocked.
“Obviously our goal as a studio is to make sure all fans get a chance to see the fun stuff going on with Star Trek: Discovery. But as mentioned [above], there are certain restrictions for the content and CBS All Access has to geo filter so the stuff they post is only viewable in the US” a CBS representative tells us. “We do share interviews and assets with our Netflix and Bell partners, and they are welcome to use them in their own territory with the proper tune-in information.”
In a later follow-up, CBS further explains that “international partners release content on their own with their own branding on their own channels and CBS/cbs all access cannot promote the show with their tune-in in those areas. We’re following the rules here. But I do know both Bell and Netflix have the best intentions to share the same assets at the same time.”
Be that as it may, with the exception of Netflix and the trailers it hasn’t been the case. Bell’s CraveTV/Space in Canada has yet to post the trailer. Neither Netflix nor Bell have published the interviews that StarTrekCBS tweeted days ago. So for now, international Star Trek fans may just need to be more patient as there appears to be either an inability, or an unwillingness, for Netflix and Bell to post the shared content in a timely and visible manner.
Star Trek Discovery airs this September on CBS All Access (USA), CraveTV/Space (Canada), and Netflix (rest of world).