CBS All Access Content Chief Julie McNamara On Luring Patrick Stewart Back To ‘Star Trek,’ Carving Out Space At CBS, Viacom Reunion

CBS All Access

CBS All Access, nearly four years after launch, is starting to distinguish itself both in the streaming landscape and within CBS Corp, according to Julie McNamara, the streaming service’s EVP Original Content.

“Are your shows like what people get on the broadcast network? Are they more like your corporate sibling Showtime? Is it like Netflix? What are you looking to do?” McNamara said, describing the questions she has heard in the three years she has been at the service. She delivered the comments Tuesday in a keynote appearance at NATPE’s Streaming Plus conference in Los Angeles.

“Without being too rigid or fascistic about it, if we did shows just like what you could find on CBS, people would say, ‘Why am I spending six bucks a month to get this premium service?'” she added. “So, we felt like there need to be shows that for whatever set of reasons are premium.”

While characters on The Good Fight or the other 11 shows currently in rotation occasionally throw F-bombs, don’t expect David Lynch to make a left instead of a right on his way to pitch another Twin Peaks outing to All Access instead of Showtime.

“How slow, or how many long lenses can you use, you know what I mean?” McNamara said, without naming any names. “There’s a great place for us in the premium content universe that feels premium but also feels accessible to the smart, curious, interesting people in our lives that aren’t necessarily looking for very specific niche material.”

A recent feat was luring Patrick Stewart to All Access to reprise his performance as Jean-Luc Picard on a forthcoming Star Trek installment, the streaming outlet’s second to date. “We approached him at a time when he felt inspired to tell this story in a certain way,” she said. “When I say ‘We,’ it wasn’t me. It was Alex Kurtzman and Michael Chabon. They made a compelling case. … for looking at Picard in that last act of his life.” Instead of a typical, back-in-the-captain’s chair, closed-end episodic outing, “this idea was compelling to him.”

Because of other strong library titles in the CBS vault, McNamara hears a lot of pitches for new spins on Hawaii Five-0 or Streets of San Francisco. “Unless a creator can come in and convey to you why this show should be redone, you can’t do it,” she said. “We have this lane (library) at CBS All Access, which has been very effective in terms of generating subscribers. But we can’t solely exist on that. And we don’t want to.”

Asked about the looming reunion with Viacom, which could be announced in the coming days after years of start-and-stop deliberations, McNamara mostly demurred. But she said the wider scope would help the All Access cause.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I look at all of these changes in the marketplace, if it gives us more to pull from in terms of content creation, great,” she said.

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