I was dreading the new Star Trek Discovery show for the past year. Ever since the lackluster ship unveiling it seemed like things were a mess. Then the show premiered 6 weeks ago and I quickly realized that I not only liked the show, but I looked forward to new episodes every single week. There are flaws, of course, and things that nerds will bicker about, but one thing everyone seems to agree on is that CBS All Access is a trash fire.
This past week, with the release of episode six, “Lethe”, every single person I know who tried to watch the show on an Apple TV experienced glitches that caused audio and video to loop, decoding errors that caused the screen to be mostly blocks of green, or just intermittent black screens. This is a black eye for CBS in the fifth week of streaming this show every Sunday night. Particularly when they put “All Access” in the name of the thing.
Curiously, I switched over to watch CBS All Access on my Fire TV and there wasn’t a single problem, while my friends with their Apple TVs continued to experience errors. Another friend with a Fire TV was also fine. I don’t know if CBS has different servers managing these things, but if they do the ones they have for the Apple TV need to be checked out.
I would argue that the only reason to subscribe to CBS All Access over any other means of accessing CBS content is that it’s the only legal way to watch Star Trek Discovery in the United States. There are simply no alternatives. It’s $5.99 a month with commercial breaks, or $9.99 a month without advertisements. In comparison, commercial-free Netflix is $10.99 a month. I’m one of the people paying extra to watching one TV show a week without ads, and to completely avoid the service the rest of the week. There is no valid reason that CBS should fail to stream that one show, when it’s available to stream, every week, when you compare that price against services that offer you a large catalog of content.
In prior weeks, I’ve experienced buffering errors, where I needed to pause the stream and go do something else while video cached, lest I run into low quality glitches, or pauses in playback. That’s every four weeks of playback prior to today. That’s abysmal that they can’t get their house in order to stream this one show. The best viewing experience I’ve had so far was when the show premiered on CBS broadcast TV.
That’s probably because Star Trek Disovery streams in a maximum of 720p, with a low bitrate, and low bitrate audio according to analysis from Audioholics. I certainly believe it, based on my experience. The average episode costs $8 million dollars. That’s like taking a bottle of Dom and pouring it in a used Dixie cup to sell.
There are even extremely bizarre things that cropped up the first week when I tried to reactivate my CBS All Access account after having stopped the trial. I reenabled the iTunes subscription through the interface provided for subscriptions on iOS. That didn’t work, and caused errors when I would try to “restore iTunes purchase” from within CBS’ Apple TV app. I had to create a CBS All Access account - a step I didn’t have to do when activating the trial - just to enable access. I watched that second episode of Discovery with commercial breaks because it didn’t seem to identify that I had selected the no-ad rate from within the iOS subscription interface. It was only after I selected it in CBS All Access that it started working. There’s no good reason why the service should not be in sync with what I am paying.
My friend Dan Moren ran into a similar problem when he realized he didn’t know how to log in to CBS All Access on his Fire TV because he had also signed up from the Apple TV side and never created a CBS All Access account.
If the nerds are supposed to be the leverage to launch this service then it should occur to someone managing CBS All Access that the nerds might be a tiny bit critical about being able to watch our nerd show every week. Perhaps the calculus is that Trekkers and Trekkies will put up with anything to watch a new Star Trek show? I’m not sure I agree with that logic.