Netflix has bought the rights to show Star Trek Prodigy season 1 @ 2 and will be streaming both by the end of the year. This deal is great for fans of the cartoon and could be an indicator of big things to come but there is a down side… We could have go season 3!
Amazon offered to do Season 3
As we reported a few months ago Amazon were also in this conversation and it was generally assumed by many insiders that Prodigy would end up on Prime. When Prodigy season 1 was pulled by Paramount+ it appeared on Prime behind a pay wall and negotiations over season 2 started. They seemed to have the most attractive offer too as insiders told me they were seriously considering commissioning another season.
So what went wrong?
Well apparently the cash offer for season 2 fell short of the actual production costs. Amazon considered this a fair deal for a show that Paramount didn’t even want but only roughly covered 80% of the actual costs. Amazon were interesting in commissioning a 3rd season though if season 2 performed well and this would have been contracted. If Prodigy had met what I am told were “very reasonable and achievable” milestones of viewing hours, Amazon would have been obliged to commission a third season.
The Amazon deal fell short with covering costs yes but the promise of another season should have won the day and apparently Secret Hideout (Star Trek production company) were keen on the proposal but Paramount went another way.
Netflix is part of a bigger deal
Netflix and Paramount have had movie and TV deals before. Back in 2018 they signed a huge movie and series deals that saw several bit properties heading to Netflix including Cloverfield and Transformers. Netflix was the home of Star Trek for years internationally and its where I watched the first few season of Discovery. Over the last few years though Paramount has been slowly pulling all these shows and movie back and putting them on Paramount+ in a bid to get into the Streaming wars… Its not gone that well.
Basically Paramount+ was launched internationally just before the credit crunch hit. They offered the service as part of other packages for free in an attempt to boost subscriber figures, here in the UK I get it free as part of my Sky Cinema package for example. That worked for a bit and they saw okay growth.
New shows like Strange New Worlds helped and Yellowstone helped a lot, Top Gun Maverick didn’t hurt at all but at not point has growth met expectations and time is running out.
Paramount has massive debt, around 15 billions dollars, and worse, its finished in last place for box office performance, within the big 6 studios, for almost every year since 2011. So it owes money and is underperforming. How could it get worse? Well sadly it does. Much of the debt they owe is due to be restructured in 2024 and since they last structured the debt interest rates have gone up and their credit rating has gone down. So what they owe is about to cost them significantly more.
They need cash and they need it now!
Here is where Netflix steps back in. I always say no one won the Streaming Wars, in fact everyone lost but in truth I suspect history will show that Netflix won. They have started to show good growth again and because they tend to show movie and series of their own and from across several other studios they tend to have a broad and large selection of stuff to watch. In these credit crunch days people do seem to be staying loyal to them. They are still the biggest platform by some way and changes to their charging rules has meant those profits are still pretty healthy even considering their debt.
Netflix recently agreed a deal with Warner Bros to move several properties over from Max to them instead and that deal is set to be expanded as Warner Bros plans to try and get out of their own financial woes by focusing on producing more content for other providers instead of the risk of making it for themselves. Is Paramount doing the same thing?
At the end of the day getting someone else to pay you to make a TV show or a movie is safer. You get them to pay you and then if the show or movie flops they take the hit, not you. Now if a show or a movie is a massive success you also don’t get all the profit either but what you do get is a deal to make a sequel or more of the series. Its a win win for the studios.
Paramount are looking to a much bigger deal with Paramount and this is the main reason why Prodigy is heading the streaming provider. Paramount want to make movies and series for Netflix, they want to get paid without the risk and use their main asset, their Studio space, more effectively. Netflix did offer to cover the costs of the second season of Prodigy and a small residual deal if the show does well. They have not agreed any deal for a 3rd season however a larger deal is in the works that will see Paramount making far more content for Netflix in the future.
Could that be good news for Star Trek?
Well this is speculation but Paramount has made it very clear they cannot afford to make as much Star Trek as we want and they have delayed announcing Legacy for that very reason. They have been arguing internally how to do this, should they just make less Trek, should Strange New Worlds be cancelled after season 3 and replaced with Legacy, or scrapped altogether and turned into a TV movie?
The fact is some executives at Paramount don’t like Star Trek. It costs too much to make. It’s caused quite a lot of controversy, in their minds, with a fan base that is split. Reality TV is cheaper and safer.
What if though, what if Netflix paid for the international distribution rights for Legacy like they did with Discovery. What if Netflix took on much of the cost and the risk? One insider I have spoken to several times has told me that Paramount as looking to pull back from Paramount+ and cut their losses. They will be returning to their previous model and look for partners to most of their biggest franchises and this will include Star Trek. There is an idea to do a Picard movie for example but Paramount are keen not to go into that alone and hope for Amazon interest in sharing the burden.
it may be the over the next few years Star Trek in different forms may appear across 3 or 4 different platforms. What that means for Paramount+ is anybody’s guess but I am confident that whatever happens to Paramount as a business in the next few years, Star Trek will carry on just fine.