December 23, 2007 -- Fast on the heels of laying off the full staff of STARTREK.COM, TrekScribbler has learned through reliable sources that the Licensing department of CBS/Paramount has also nixed an agreement that would have re-authorized the Official Star Trek Fan Club, originally sanctioned by Paramount and Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry in 1982.
The proposed Fan Club license would have created a new interactive on-line Star Trek fan experience building on the successes of the original Fan Club and magazine. It would have created a fan-driven community supported by exclusive fan content, a printed annual publication, exclusive merchandising opportunities and local fan events.
The rejected proposal ended over a year of negotiations by Dan Madsen, the original founder and President of the highly successful Official Fan Club from its 1982 creation until 2002, when it was acquired by Decipher, a Norfolk, Virginia manufacturer of specialty card games. Decipher abruptly shuttered the Fan Club and ceased publication of the Club magazine, the Star Trek Communicator, in 2005 after the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise, letting the license lapse.
No official comment was offered for CBS/Paramount's decision, although observers and people familiar with the negotiations and players say that its new licensing department was unfocused due to a rash of internal reorganizations, and "massively disinterested" and unfamiliar with the historic relationship between the Fan Club and the Star Trek franchise. Despite early interest, their final position during negotiations was that after forty years and multiple incarnations, the franchise's remaining US fan base was too small, too splintered and demographically too old to justify an independent fan club.
"To 20-somethings calling the shots who aren't familiar with Star Trek or the Fan Club," said one insider, "Star Trek is just one among many properties CBS/Paramount has to deal with, and its easy to get lost in the shuffle." CBS/Paramount in fact owns hundreds of licensable properties including the libraries of Viacom and CBS, and various shows from NBC, Desilu, Paramount Pictures and Paramount Television.
There was also some indication that J.J. Abrams, the producer of the yet untitled eleventh Star Trek motion picture, was peripherally involved in the negative decision. Paramount is pinning high hopes on his prequel reimagining of the franchise will breath new life into the property, long left adrift. Rumors suggested that his insistence of virtually complete marketing and merchandising control of the new motion picture has affected all incarnations of the Star Trek franchise, essentially precluding any new licensing or product development without his input. The new Star Trek movie is scheduled to premiere in US theaters December 25th 2008 and has an estimated $150 million budget.
An unconfirmed report suggested that CBS/Paramount counter-proposed the establishment of a greatly scaled back Fan Club to be controlled by CBS/Paramount, with a launch date sometime in mid-2008. People close to the negotiations believe CBS/Paramount's objective is a fan club serving as a purely merchandising and publicity tool for the company rather than a fan-driven entity.
At the moment, officially recognized Star Trek Fan Clubs exist in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, though their future is also now in doubt. While still popular in these and other overseas markets, the Star Trek franchise has seen a gradual fracturing of focus and decline in fandom in the United States since the 1991 death of its originator, Gene Roddenberry, and the 1994 conclusion of Star Trek: The Next Generation, arguably the most widely seen and popular of the Star Trek incarnations.