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November 2012

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Star Trek Will Beam Advertisers Aboard New Series Pilot

by Glen Emerson Morris
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A few years ago I wrote a column lamenting the inability of advertisers to support any of the many not-for-profit Star Trek productions Paramount has been allowing Trekkers to make. Well, advertisers may finally get a boarding pass. Renegades production company, made up of several Star Trek alumni, has launched a project through kickstarter.com. They're asking for $200,000 to make a pilot to try to sell to CBS. Let's hope they can raise the money.

With no new Star Trek television series currently on the air, and none officially announced for the future, advertisers wanting to target the Start Trek market don't have a lot of options. The Trek fans that don't own the various series on DVD can watch them commercial free on Netflix in HD. What advertisers need is a new Star Trek episodic series, and the series being proposed on kickstarter.com is about as ideal as possible.

The production team for Renegades is the same team behind Of Gods and Men (www.startrekofgodsandmen.com/), a not-for-profit production that has slowly become a mainstream hit (it was playing at a church a block north of Apple's main campus last week). As a Trekker from the original broadcast of the first episode, I can't claim to be completely objective, but OGAM is one Hell of a movie. Despite the technology and special effects, OGAM has a very character driven plot that's pure Roddenberry. It also has a lot of Star Trek regulars. Most importantly for advertisers, it works on a whole lot of different levels, and that means a whole lot of different kinds of people are going to like it for a lot of different reasons, and that means ratings.

OGAM may have had an amateur's production budget, but it was no amateur production. The script, acting, direction and editing are absolutely first rate. It's clear the OGAM production team is an extraordinarily talented set of people. Most importantly, they seem to understand what a Star Trek series needs to do for advertisers, and it looks like they could deliver on a consistent basis. And why not, pretty much the whole cast and crew are Hollywood veterans.

The two biggest stars in OGAM are Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, supporting actors who turned stereotype bit parts into roles of archetypal and mythic dimension. Koenig would be legendary in the science fiction world just for his role as the Psi Cop Bester in Babylon 5, but he's most closely associated with Star Trek. He gets more lines in OGAM than he probably had in the entire original Star Trek TV series, and the depth he adds to the Chekov character is awesome. The same goes for Nichols, she can deliver a fine performance when she's got a script worthy of her talent, and she's got one. There's a scene where she's asked if she still believes in non-violence after the planet Vulcan and many of her loved ones have been destroyed. Her answer resonates with the rage, righteousness and totally justified pride of every black mother who ever watched her non-violent sons, brothers and husbands beaten by Bull Conner's thugs in the battle for equality.

There are several other prominent Star Trek alumni as well. Tim Russ, the Vulcan Tuvok on ST Voyager, both acts and serves as director of the series, and does a fine job of adding a real depth to the characters. Also present is Robert Picardo, the emergency medical holodoctor from ST Voyager. Picardo has been developing a strong personal following for his significant efforts to promote science in America (he was a panelist at the last SETIcon). For the sake of ratings, let's hope Picardo is in every episode.

There are simply too many other Star Trek alumni involved in Renegades to list or do justice to. If this cast can't pull off a Star Trek revival, no one can. The question now is whether kickstarter.com is an adequate source for funding the creation of TV/cable series.

The concept of funding a TV pilot through kickstarter.com probably deserves a column by itself. Most likely, this is not a freak event, but the beginning of a completely new way for advertisers to fund and in other ways participate in the development of new cable series. And it's about time.

The current selection of network and cable offerings has left advertisers with choices that frequently seem like the lesser of evils. Do you sponsor the show about people cheating on their spouses, or cop reality show full of real criminals, or the family show with gross language and even worse behavior. True, there are some shows on cable now that really do feature positive roll models, like the mega-hit Pawn Stars, but such shows are a rarity. However, that might change.

The kickstarter.com approach could give advertisers a much stronger voice in selecting the kind of entertainment that would represent America on the airwaves and cable. In a few years, there may be a booming business launching specialized pilots specifically for certain classes of advertisers. A production company might propose a weekly adventure series about a couple who owned a sailboat and sailed the Caribbean sea. The target advertisers would include travel agencies, insurance companies, hotels, and the makers of navigational equipment, sailboat accessories and sailboats. Why not? When you consider the failure rate of weekly TV shows over the past twenty years, you have to wonder how things could have gone much worse.

A process of developing pilots for weekly series that included a serious commitment by advertisers and fans might substantially improve a shows chances of success. It certainly seems like a better idea than letting some overpaid executive in some New York skyscraper make the decision. After all, execs like them were the people who canceled Star Trek in the first place, in part because their ratings system was too primitive to notice that they were attracting a very intelligent and well funded market segment, but mostly because they were too dumb to know a classic show when they saw it.

The Star Trek world has become America's role model, it's the product requirements document for the future. People don't really want to see Star Trek features. They want to live in the Star Trek world, and for real. How many other TV shows ever produced that kind of reaction?

Star Trek has become an integral part of the American consciousness. It represents the best we can be, and the agencies and advertisers whose funding made Star Trek possible on television have a just right to be proud. Not surprisingly, we are recommending advertisers donate to the Renegades kickstarter.com project. It's a solid investment in America's future. With a little luck, we'll have the chance to sponsor the show on CBS next year.
e current hardware and software licensing conditions are reducing many in the business community from business owners to the equivalent high technology sharecroppers. We can't allow this to continue.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law. He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.




Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.


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