Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Power of Franchise Synergies

11 January, 2021

Monitoring the top series in the US, a recent trend has jumped out as notable. Star Wars: The Clone Wars has experienced a massive resurgence in demand despite having concluded with its series finale in early May. The driver behind this is no surprise. The Clone Wars’ run up in demand has happened concurrently with The Mandalorian releasing new episodes. In the 6 weeks following The Mandalorian’s season 2 premiere, demand for The Clone Wars has grown by 104%. The demand spillover from The Mandalorian also benefited Star Wars Rebels, whose demand increased by 128% in the same period.

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Disney+ is certainly aware of the benefits of creating synergies between content on its platform, and in this season of The Mandalorian they have actively created crossover opportunities with other series in the Star Wars universe. A fan favorite character, Ashoka Tano, made a surprise appearance in The Mandalorian and caused demand to surge for both The Mandalorian and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Moreover, this character has her own spinoff series planned, showing that Disney only intends on further strengthening the connections between its shows in the Star Wars universe.

Franchise synergies are a powerful force for platforms with libraries of legacy content that might not otherwise attract audiences’ attention. Star Trek is illustrative of this point. The franchise has had a much longer history on TV - the original series dates to 1966. Despite its long run on TV, the Star Trek franchise is still going strong. Star Trek: Discovery is regularly among the most in-demand shows in the US. The latest addition to the universe, Star Trek: Picard is a finalist for the most in-demand premiere of 2020. Below you can see how the release of Star Trek: Picard lifted demand for other series in the Star Trek franchise. In particular, demand for Star Trek: The Next Generation was up by 40% the week after Picard premiered. Picard is the most directly tied to The Next Generation, with Patrick Stewart reprising his role from The Next Generation, which ended 26 years before Picard premiered.

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The impact of synergies will be important for the success of Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series. Knowing this in advance will allow them to build in crossover opportunities as new series are released, just as they have already had success doing with their Star Wars series. Creating these linkages will make the total catalog value of shows in a franchise greater than the sum of its parts. A fan of one series will be more likely to be pulled into another show in the franchise which will increase the retention of a platform.

Also, as we saw with the Star Trek franchise, building in connections between series can increase the longevity of a show. As new shows in a franchise are released, interest in older parts of the franchise can be rekindled, thus creating value from shows that would have aged out of popularity without connections to a franchise that is alive and well.

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