'Star Trek' Is Copying 'The Transformers' Model


Image credit: CBS/Nickelodeon

The new show Star Trek: Prodigy, in collaboration with Nickelodeon, is the franchise’s first attempt at targeting its youngest audience yet. Thus following in the footsteps of Transformers: Rescue Bots to tap into the lucrative preschool merchandise market.

With the announcement of its new show, Star Trek is boldly going where it has not gone before: on children’s television. CBS is making a smart move in collaborating with Nickelodeon on this show. That channel already captivating the target market. This is the first show that Star Trek is deliberately aiming at young, school-age children. Transformers and their parent company, Hasbro, previously found great success with the same formula with their newer series, Transformers: Rescue Bots

About Star Trek: Prodigy

The show was hinted at in April of 2019. The title was officially announced during the SDCC’s Comic-Con@Home this year. About Star Trek: Prodigy:

“The new original CG-animated series follows a group of lawless teens who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it to search for adventure, meaning, and salvation.”

The show is anticipated to take place at the same time as Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. Fans may recall that the new season of Discovery takes place far into the future, after the fall of the Federation.

Star Trek: Prodigy is one of several new series in the venerable Star Trek franchise. Thus far, it is the only one that is not going to be on CBS All Access and is targeted towards preschoolers.

Star Trek has created other animated series in the past. The first one, Star Trek: The Animated Series (ST: TAS), aired in 1973. It is often considered the fourth season of the groundbreaking show, Star Trek, which started it all. It was aimed at a more general audience.

The newest series to debut on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is an animated series. This show takes place in the year 2380, after the events of the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Only a few episodes have aired thus far. That hit show is clearly meant for older viewers.

Transformers: A history in disguise

Thus far, CBS’s plans to make forays into younger and younger markets are a step in the right direction. The Transformers franchise released Rescue Bots in 2012, which ran until 2016. A new program, Rescue Bots Academy, started last year. Both shows have proven to be very popular with younger viewers. Before the start of the show in 2019, the Transformers franchise was already valued at $10 billion. This value was driven in part by the sales of Rescue Bot merchandise.

Many today may not know or remember that parent company Hasbro started the original animated show in 1984 as a way to sell the Transformers toyline. By the 1980s, many of the restrictions on product placement within children’s television had been lifted. Thus, making it easier to create products-based programming for network television. Hasbro had already achieved success with the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero show and toyline. The G.I. Joe animated series was created in partnership with Marvel and included a comic book tie-in.

The partnership of Hasbro and Marvel struck gold again when applying the same 3-pronged formula to the Transformers. Marvel team members helped Hasbro develop the storylines for the inaugural series, now called Generation 1, and comic-book miniseries. Those same Autobots and Decepticons are generating profit for Hasbro today, 30+ years later.

Star Trek: A formula for success

Star Trek is a much older franchise with a substantial, multi-generational fanbase. There is already a significant market for collectibles and memorabilia. Though, to date, none of it has targeted the younger demographic. Since the show has always dealt with deep philosophical issues, it was perceived as too intellectual and mature for young children.

CBS and Nickelodeon are setting up The Star Trek: Prodigy animated series to rise to the challenge of bridging that gap. CBS will not profit from only merchandise sales; both will benefit from advertising dollars. CBS has not released more information about what age range they are targeting with the show. Star Trek, as a franchise, stands to increase its range of appeal, placing it light years ahead of Transformers and that other starry franchise, Star Wars. If CBS is successful in following Hasbro’s model, the audience and profit gains will be worth it.

Source(s): screenrant.com