Paramount+’s “Star Trek: Picard” is an homage to a generation of ’90s “Trek” fans who followed the seven-season and four-movie heroics of the “Next Generation” crew of the USS Enterprise. It offers a master class to holders of similarly valuable IP in how to delight fans both old and new. And in today’s crowded and highly competitive streaming landscape, it should offer a powerful incentive for Paramount to give fans more of what they want.
“Star Trek: Picard” is the most successful “Star Trek” show streaming today, according to viewership data from Samba TV. Not only did the Season 3 premiere perform well for Paramount+, topping the Season 4 premiere of “Star Trek Discovery” by more than 40%, but momentum built week after week as showrunner Terry Matalas and colleagues reintroduced a delightful cadence of familiar fan-favorite characters with each episode.
Paramount struck ratings gold by not only tapping into the nostalgia of the Patrick Stewart era of “Trek,” but by also timing the release with Vulcan-like precision. The cast seemed to come through a time warp around the Sun to arrive at the very peak of their career performances together. For “Trek” fans, seeing Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart back together again is the ultimate family reunion everyone hoped it could be. In an era of negative celebrity drama, the chemistry between the cast was palpable.
The casting of Jeri Ryan as everyone’s favorite former bad-ass Borg (and now everyone’s favorite bad-ass captain) was a master stroke. Ryan has proven to be the bridge that united an entire generation of fans. Buzz for the quality of the programming delivered an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes and ultimately helped the series finale draw in 51% more viewers than the premiere when measuring initial four-day viewership.
While “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” comparisons are as old as the franchises themselves, one comparison is worth noting to highlight just how impressive the “Picard” engagement numbers are. Where Paramount+ grew its audience by more than half from premiere to finale, Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” shed 14% of its audience between its Season 3 premiere and finale. The numbers don’t lie: “Star Trek: Picard” is the way.
While the audience numbers tell one part of the story, when looking at the actual audience makeup, the business case for expanding the “TNG” universe becomes clear enough for any Ferengi to see.
Not only did “Picard” build its audience week after week, it drew in the demographic every streamer is clamoring to capture today. Impressively, for a show featuring characters from the 1990s, “Picard” managed to succeed where so many throwback programs have failed. It overindexed with Gen Z audiences who weren’t alive the last time the crew of the Enterprise D (and E) appeared together.
With a strong and growing Gen Z audience base bringing in new fans to the now more than half-century-old Gene Roddenberry-created “Trek” universe, “Picard” also scored with high-income households. These homes are most likely to cycle through multiple streaming subscriptions. While resisting subscription cycling may be futile for some streamers, prioritizing new storylines that bring together characters that audiences already know and love can give Paramount a competitive advantage for retaining subscribers.
For Paramount, the data points to a perfect opportunity to double down on what works and tap into the multitude of storylines that connect the “Trek” of today with what has delighted fans for so many years. While Stewart has stated he has no interest in fronting another season of “Picard,” he and the entire cast have also shared their willingness to revisit their characters as part of a larger “Next Generation”-era legacy project. From Sisko and crew on “Deep Space Nine” to Janeway’s “Voyager,” the Paramount mountain is chock full of the kind of characters that have inspired audiences for generations.
With tens of thousands of fans already signing a petition urging Paramount to continue the adventures “Picard” kicked off, it is clear fans are eager and willing to support programming they love with their monthly subscription fees. Now, fans only need for Paramount to make it so.
Dallas Lawrence, a lifelong “TNG” fan, is the chief strategy officer of Telly. Connect with him on Twitter: @dallaslawrence
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