I held off writing this for a while, even as the prospect of Strange New Worlds getting an international broadcast slipped further and further away. I didn’t want to jump the gun and come across as being too aggressive or too critical of Paramount Global – the corporation that owns and mismanages Star Trek. But with only a week to go, it’s patently obvious that Paramount has no plans whatsoever to broadcast Strange New Worlds outside of the United States and the handful of other countries where Paramount+ is available.
At the time of the Discovery Season 4 mess last November, I felt hopeful that the backlash from fans might’ve prevented this. But I guess I should’ve known better – this isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation, after all. Lower Decks Season 1 was the first casualty of the Paramount board’s ineptitude. That show’s lack of an international broadcast in the summer of 2020 hurt it immeasurably.
Then came Prodigy Season 1 in 2021, another series with real prospects to expand the Star Trek franchise far beyond its usual fanbase. That opportunity was squandered by Paramount’s decision to withhold the series from international broadcast. That decision was made so much worse by the fact that Prodigy is branded as a Nickelodeon co-production – and with Nickelodeon channels available in well over 100 countries, fans were rightly asking why they couldn’t watch the show along with their American friends.
Finally, only a few weeks after the Prodigy mess came the Discovery Season 4 calamity. Paramount literally paid Netflix money out of its own pocket to take the show away, preventing fans all across the world from watching it. They announced this “deal” with barely 48 hours’ notice, leading to a massive backlash from fans and even some of the actors and creative team. You’d think they’d have learned a thing or two from that mess, especially when it tanked their share price.
But alas, it’s only April 2022 – less than six months later – and here we are again. Paramount has decided that it doesn’t want its international fans to pay for Strange New Worlds – it would rather we pirated the show instead. Fine by me.
It’s not like there weren’t options if Paramount wanted to make Strange New Worlds available to international viewers. Here in the UK, for example, Paramount Global owns the following: Channel 5 and its associated channels 5Select, 5Action, 5USA, 5Star, and the My5 catch-up service, Nickelodeon and its associated channels Nick Jr. and Nicktoons, Comedy Central, MTV and five MTV spin-offs, the Horror Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, CBS Drama, CBS Justice, and CBS Reality. Several of these are free-to-air, with the others being available on subscription via cable or satellite providers.
In addition, Paramount Global owns PlutoTV, the online television network where Discovery Season 4 was made available. And speaking of Discovery Season 4, Paramount was able to make deals with Amazon Video, Google Play, and even YouTube to allow viewers in some countries to pay to watch. In short, Paramount Global could have made Strange New Worlds available. They had every opportunity and numerous options for doing so.
On top of all that, the Star Trek franchise has been subjected to some truly pathetic scheduling decisions over the past few months, and these schedules now seem even worse in light of the lack of an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds. Compounding the decision to cut off international fans, Prodigy’s first season has been butchered, cleaved into small chunks of episodes that have made it harder than necessary for the show to gain any kind of traction.
But worse is the situation with Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Why have these shows overlapped one another? Discovery and Picard ran concurrently for three weeks, and Picard’s season finale will be broadcast the same day as Strange New Worlds’ premiere. Why? If these three shows had been better-scheduled, split up by just a few weeks, then maybe there’d have been more time to get Paramount+ ready for the next phase of its international rollout. The UK and Europe have been promised Paramount+ by the end of Q2 – well that’s only a few weeks away, so if Picard Season 2 had been delayed by 4 weeks, and Strange New Worlds by another 3-4 weeks, maybe more fans would’ve been able to watch. How did this happen? And are the inept schedulers still making decisions? Seems like a firing offence to me.
By choosing not to take advantage of the global media empire that it literally owns, refusing to do deals with other corporations, and screwing up the scheduling of its own shows, Paramount has chosen to push fans toward piracy. Not only that, but the hurt and anger that has been generated by these decisions over the past couple of years will make it so much harder to convince fans to sign up for Paramount+ if the incompetently-managed service is ever ready to be rolled out.
Streaming platforms do not exist in a vacuum. The option fans have is not “pay for Paramount+ or don’t watch anything.” Piracy exists, and the only way that companies like Netflix and Disney have been able to make a success of the streaming model is by offering a good service at a low price. Paramount+ already fails the “good service” test – according to what I’m hearing from subscribers in the United States – so charging fans a higher price than Netflix, Amazon, or Disney for a worse product isn’t exactly going to incentivise folks to sign up.
Despite that, when a film, television series, or video game is made available to watch, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” I don’t want to be a pirate. From both a moral perspective and as a point of simple practicality, I believe that everyone from actors, writers, and directors to producers and executives should be paid for the work that they put into creating an entertainment product. But when a corporation takes that option away and piracy becomes the only way to access that content, then I’m all for it. In such cases as these, it is quite literally the only option.
That’s the position Paramount has placed fans in. They had options to broadcast Strange New Worlds on channels and networks that they owned from as far afield as Angola and Mozambique to the UK, Western Europe, and beyond… but they actively and willfully chose not to. They did so knowing that many fans wouldn’t wait for Paramount+… and if they didn’t realise that many of us would turn to piracy, then they’re even more incompetent and out of their depth than I thought.
It’s become increasingly obvious that Paramount as a whole needs a good clear-out. 20th Century thinking is trying and failing to lead the corporation into the mid-21st Century, and executives and leaders clearly know nothing about a global media landscape that has been entirely transformed over the past couple of decades. Their attempt to launch their own streaming platform a decade too late in a massively competitive market was already a blunder all but certain to end in failure; the fact that Paramount+ is being handled so poorly is just hastening its demise. The anger and hurt caused to fans around the world – and not just fans of Star Trek, either, but fans of shows and franchises as diverse as Halo and iCarly – will be a weight around the corporation’s neck going forward. With inflation and other financial issues hitting hard in the short term, it’ll be ever more difficult to find subscribers for such a mediocre platform.
Paramount’s “America First” fetish would even make Donald Trump blush, and the corporation’s decision to gatekeep its own shows, segregating its audience geographically, is a colossal mistake. It’s one that Paramount+ may never recover from. And you know what? If a streaming platform with this level of ineptitude and mismanagement fails, it will deserve to fail. If a corporation with such a blinkered, short-sighted approach and an atrocious corporate attitude fails, it will deserve to fail too. My only concern as a fan of Star Trek is that Paramount+ may very well drag the Star Trek franchise down along with it.
The United States has been Paramount’s exclusive focus thus far, so much so that even when Paramount+ rolled out to countries like Australia, new episodes of shows like Prodigy weren’t broadcast there. Australian Trekkies who’d paid for Paramount+ were told that they’d have to wait for Discovery Season 4, and then Prodigy Season 1… so what exactly was the point of signing up? Did anyone at Paramount consider that question, or were they too fixated on America to care – or even notice?
I have tried my best to support Star Trek over the years. I signed up for Netflix in 2017 entirely because Discovery would be shown there, and I’ve likewise paid for Amazon Prime Video to watch Picard and Lower Decks. Over the span of more than thirty years I’ve bought Star Trek films and episodes on VHS, then the entire collection of every pre-2005 series on DVD, several on Blu-ray, and enough merchandise to sink a small boat. I’ve done my part to contribute financially to this franchise that I love… and even so, even with all the money I’ve already spent and all of the problems that I know Paramount+ has, I was ready to spend more. But Paramount saw fans like me offering up our cash and told us to fuck off.
The actors and the creative team who worked so hard to bring Strange New Worlds to life don’t deserve to find themselves in the middle of a stinking corporate mess, but in a way they’re caught in the crossfire. We should all be able to come together and celebrate the broadcast of a series that was only made possible because of Star Trek fans – many of whom are not American. But instead, we’re arguing about it. Strange New Worlds has become the latest in a line of own goals from Paramount, and there’s no way that the toxicity that they have created won’t spill over into criticisms of the show and everyone involved.
This mess could’ve been avoided. Paramount could have learned the lesson from just a few months ago, and spent the intervening time figuring out the best option for broadcasting Strange New Worlds in all of the different countries and territories around the globe. Instead they pissed away that time doing nothing of the sort, dragging the Star Trek fan community back to the same old arguments we had during the Discovery mess.
Paramount has options to broadcast Strange New Worlds internationally, either on channels and platforms that it already owns or by agreeing licenses with other corporations. It has had more than enough time to figure out what to do, and should’ve been spurred into action by the clusterfuck surrounding Discovery Season 4. And failing all of that, Paramount has had weeks now in which to break the news to Trekkies; to tell us something and respond to the many questions that have been asked about the series. They’ve done none of that – and the explanation is simple. They don’t care about or respect any non-American fans or viewers.
So our recourse is piracy, as it always has been. When a corporation misbehaves like this, and treats its biggest fans and biggest supporters with such blatant disrespect, they haven’t just encouraged piracy, they deserve to have their shows pirated. They deserve the financial hit, the hit to viewing figures, and quite honestly, Strange New Worlds deserves to fail. Under this appalling team of corporate fuckwits, Star Trek as a whole will fail. And when we’re picking up the pieces in a few years’ time, asking where it all went wrong, we’ll be able to look back on these decisions and recognise that it was here that Paramount screwed up.
I constantly hope for better from Paramount – and I’m constantly let down. So I’m going to do what they clearly want me to do: I’m going to pirate Strange New Worlds. And you should too.
Piracy is probably against the rules where you live, so when you do pirate Strange New Worlds, do so carefully. Here’s where I’d usually tell you that the Star Trek franchise is someone’s copyright, but fuck it. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.