Now straight away I know what you are going to say… who is buying back Star Trek? It was never sold right?
Well in this article I am going to be talking about a possibility that sources close to Paramount have told me about and the first thing I have to explain is that Paramount don’t quite own Star Trek… well they do and they don’t. It is a little complicated, so let me explain.
Secret Hideout is the company that currently produces Star Trek for Paramount Global, the company that currently runs Paramount and CBS. Paramount Global is the parent company to companies like MTV, Paramount Pictures, Paramount studios and so on, that are in turn owned by Paramount or CBS.
Secret Hideout is currently owned primarily by Alex Kurtzman. A name that is not massively liked by some quarters of the Star Trek fandom.
Now Secret Hideout do not own the Intellectual property (IP) of Star Trek. They are licensed to produce the series on behalf of Paramount with CBS studios. The slight complication comes into the equation however when you realise that what they then produce is, at least in part, owned by Secret Hideout. Anything original that they then produce that is.
Now this is a legal technicality because Secret Hideout could not produce Star Trek without Paramounts permission because Paramount own all the rights of the show. But at the same time Paramount could not produce what we currently know as Strange New Worlds for example without Secret Hideout either. They could of course produce a series set at the same time period aboard the Enterprise with characters called Pike etc. However it would have to be very different because anything original Secret Hideout produced could not be referenced by this new show.
And if you totally understand that you are a better person than me. I am assured by the source though, that works in contract development for a big studio, that it is basically correct, however, even more complicated than it sounds.
Paramount to buy Star Trek then… why?
Well Paramount Global is in a little bit of financial difficulty. They owe in the region of 15 Billion dollars. There credit rating is BBB which is not terrible but is not AAA and that is a problem because a large chunk of their debt needs to be re-financed this year, about 10 Billion of it.
So they have to re-finance their debt after they have had their credit rating lowered and at a time of higher interest rates.
That is a problem.
An expensive problem at that.
The solution? – SELL!
So currently in the halls of Paramount Global splitting up the current business and selling chunks of it off is being considered very seriously. In fact in small parts this is already happening as smaller elements of the business have already been sold. You of course do not have to take my word for this either, google “Paramount for sale” and you will find several stories and business analysts talking about the possibility.
Now my understanding is that this has not yet be 100% decided but a situation where a business this size might need selling and carving up requires significant planning. That is what is currently happening. I understand the discussion is going something like this… “IF we need to sell in the next 2 years, what do we need to do now to maximise value?”
That is where Star Trek and Secret Hideout comes in.
For Paramount to maximise value it really needs to simplify the ownership situation of pretty much it’s most valuable product. Star Trek. Secret Hideout currently has a 3 year deal with Paramount to produce the show and TV movies and it would be expensive for them to forfeit that contract. VERY EXPENSIVE.
Alex Kurtzman also has other projects he wants to do like ‘Now you see me 3’. Projects he can’t do with Secret Hideout because they have a first refusal deal in place with Paramount, who don’t own movies like Now you see me that Kurtzman has links to.
So it may be cheaper simply to buy out Kurtzman, let him go off and do other projects and form a new production company ‘Star Trek Studios’ out of Secret Hideout.
So the benefit for Paramount is that they have total control over the shows currently in development and existing that have been successful so far. They are able to keep the current team and partners like Roddenberry Entertainment without negotiating new contracts etc. They could basically carry on with the current plans for the series without having to change much… it is a simple and elegant solution.
They could also cut out Alex Kurtzman. Now I am going to say right away that I am not one of the Trekkies that spew hate at Kurtzman. Yes I think he has made some serious mistakes with the franchise and yes I think some of the Trek he has overseen has been not up to the standard I would expect. But I have liked almost as much of the new Trek as I have disliked. Okay I am not a fan of Discovery but I adore Lower decks for example.
It is fair to say though regardless which side of this debate you find yourself, pro-Kurtzman or Kurtzman out, you have to admit that he has been a divisive figure. Fairly so or not.
It would be an easy win for Paramount to cut him out of the discussion without throwing the baby out with the bath water.
So Trekkies would be a little happier and Paramount would have a product that is easier and more attractive to sell. Win Win.
So who might buy Star Trek if Paramount sell?
Now if you thought this article was complicated already hold on to your hat as it is about to go nuclear!
Speaking to a source he said that the very VERY early discussion would be for CBS to stay controlled by the current owners, shareholders etc. and that Star trek Studios would most likely stay under CBS rather than Paramount. I should say at this point that this has happened before, CBS and Paramount were separated and Paramount had the movie rights for Star Trek while CBS held the TV rights. This, I am told, is being avoided this time by the creation of Star Trek Studios that would own the entire IP so there would be no complicated splitting of the rights again.
Side note – This scenario is also one reason the Star Trek 4 movie plans were put on hold because the project would have further complicated the future possible sale as Bad Robot are also involved in a similar part ownership problem like Paramount has with Secret Hideout.
So what about the rest of Paramount? Well apparently the early idea is that Warner Bros would like to buy Paramount Studios. The physical studio space Paramount currently own. Warner Bros business model moving forward is to produce content for other providers far more than they currently do and to do that they need studio space and the skilled people/talent that come with such a deal.
However I am told that Warner Bros. don’t what the IP that Paramount Pictures owns, it would simply be too expensive for Warner, a company that itself owes in the region of 50 billion dollars. The answer? Warner’s current streaming Platform MAX would be sold to Netflix to fund the purchase of the studios. Netflix would then create a Premium tear of its current platform with Netflix – MAX (my source believes this is actually why Warner Bros changed the named from HBO max to just Max earlier this year.) And finally Apple would buy Paramount Pictures and all the current IP the studio holds, like Top Gun for example.
Very complicated I know.
I am forgetting something though… Paramount+. Well Paramount’s own streaming service has not exactly been a storming success even though it has not been a failure either. Even though its success is debatable what is not up for debate is that fact that it has been massively expensive. Especially its international role out.
I am being told that there is no plan set in stone for Paramount+ but it is unlikely they will be able to sell the platform. It is more likely the shows will shift to Apple+ as the new owner and Paramount+ as a streaming service will be left to die. Something that should not surprise us as there are too many platforms streaming platforms currently and thanks to the current cost of living crises experts are predicting several platforms will either simply end or be merged into other platforms, like Disney is absorbing Hulu and in fact how Paramount+ just absorbed Showtime (another indicator of what is coming as Paramount tries to make itself more streamlined and attractive to a buyer).
How likely is all this?
These are business decisions that rely on several factors though. Perhaps they will be able to finance the debt at an affordable rate or bring in some outsider investment? Perhaps Apple will decide they don’t actually want Paramount or someone else will outbid them like Amazon did with the MGM sale?
There are many many hurdles that need to be negotiated before we get anything like a clear picture but one thing I can tell you for certain is that these discussions are happening and once you understand that many decisions that effect our favourite shows like Star Trek start to make sense. No Star Trek 4? A TV movie instead? Slowing down production of the TV shows and not giving us Legacy, a show the fans desperately want.
All because there are changes coming and the big bosses are not quite sure what those changes mean yet. A big indicator though of what is to come is what happens with Secret Hideout and Alex Kurtzman.
Watch this space (pun intended).