Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
CBS Consumer Products logo

CBS Consumer Products, Inc. is the licensing and merchandising unit of CBS Entertainment which manages the licensing of products for the various television shows owned by CBS, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Distribution. This company controls the licensing to produce all Star Trek related home media formats, print formats, games, toys, clothing, and merchandise. In essence the unit serves as the legal guardian for the entire Star Trek franchise, excepting the actual production and sales to cinemas/broadcasters of the live-action productions themselves, which are the purview of its mother/sister companies and, as of 2006, their affiliate Paramount Pictures.

The company also collaborated with Mad Science to develop Star Trek Live, an interactive stage show which opened in 2010 and continues to tour today. Star Trek The Exhibition was also co-produced by the company. Products branded with the CBS Consumer Products name have also been released by The Bradford Exchange, The Hamilton Collection, Hammacher Schlemmer, and ThinkGeek, among others.

The unit also doubles as an archive for the Star Trek merchandise they have licensed – some of which actually turning up in various live-action productions such as, aside from Star Trek proper, The Big Bang Theory – as well as serving as a repository for the surviving original live-action production documents, art and other assets (such as uniform, props and studio models) that have been created throughout the history of the franchise, thereby functioning as a reference source for authors of licensed reference works, though a considerable amount of the production assets has been sold off in the 2006-2008 wave of Star Trek auctions. (source)

All remastering projects of the Star Trek television series and movies were initiated by, and have fallen under the auspices of the department, and the home media formats thereof are currently released under the heading "CBS Home Entertainment".


As far as Star Trek was concerned, the unit was established in 1967, while Star Trek: The Original Series was in production, as part of Paramount Pictures, which encompassed the newly formed Paramount Television department, itself formed out of the former Desilu Studios and Paramount's own, rather small and hitherto relatively insignificant television department. Their marketing unit, into which "Desilu Publicity" – until then headed by Howard McClay and Frank Wright – was absorbed, became known as the "Paramount Publicity Department" with Wright being retained as department head. It were they who, aside from handling the legalities surrounding contemporary Star Trek merchandise, provided author Stephen Edward Poe with the illustrative material for the first Star Trek reference book, The Making of Star Trek. Poe had already professional dealings with both iterations of the department, as he was the account manager for model kit company AMT – one of the very first outside companies to acquire an official franchise license, if not the very first, as they had already received theirs on 1 August 1966 before the series had even premiered over a month later – in regard to their Star Trek model kit line. (p. 15) Personally acquainted with the department, Poe has stated in later years, "Desilu [and its successor] treated the whole idea of Star Trek licensing and merchandising with immense disdain. It was as if studio executives felt greatly annoyed at having to even discuss the subject at all(...)–some sort of corporate aberration–and licensed merchandise emerged only slowly and with, apparently, great reluctance." (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, pp. 45-46)

Unsurprisingly therefore, merchandising and licensing remained a rather passive and haphazard affair until 1979. Interested parties had to approach the department with proposals, which the department's involvement somewhat limited to either agreeing to them or not, and drawing up contracts. However, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was in production, the department, now recently renamed to "Paramount Marketing and Licensing Department" (covering both the television as well as the movie properties of the studio) made a quantum leap forward in professionalism.

Star Trek The Motion Picture beverage containers by Coca-Cola Happy Meals endorsed by a Klingon in a 1980 McDonalds commercial CBS Consumer Products Global License cover
Paramount's first food products tie-in promotion; Coca-Cola beverage containers on the left, and a still from a McDonald's commercial on the right.
Star Trek Into Darkness on the cover of License! Global magazine

The leap forward was necessitated by the February 1979 visual effects crisis during the movie's production, and responsible for the leap was the department's newly appointed Vice-president Dawn Steel. Steel was charged with creating another revenue stream to help cover the ballooning production costs. She did so by organizing a vigorous merchandising and licensing fund drive, which climaxed in a highly imaginative presentation, held in the largest theater on the Paramount lot. A resounding success, the presentation was met with rambunctious enthusiasm by the attending prospective licensee companies. "It was the most unbelievable party Paramount ever had.", attending studio producer, Brian Grazer, remembered, to which then novice studio producer Jerry Bruckheimer has admiringly added, "She went to conventions and got every toy-maker, anyone who made T-shirts and key chains and raised every nickel she could. She shook the trees. There hasn't been that energy vortex in merchandise since she left.". Numerous companies signed up, including, at the time, unusual ones such as food industry corporations like Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The presentation marked the first time for Paramount that licensing revenues were generated, before a production had premiered. Concurrently, parent company Gulf+Western had commissioned the development of an accompanying, The Motion Picture-themed, book line through subsidiary Pocket Books and its imprints, which it had acquired in 1975 – and therefore a sister company of Paramount Pictures. (New York Magazine, 29 May 1989, p. 45; 6 September 1993, p. 40)

From here on end merchandising and licensing became an integral part of a proactive overall marketing strategy, further refined and vastly enhanced in the subsequent years, already under Steel's immediate department successor, Frank Mancuso, Sr. (Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, pp. 108-109)

see for further details: Star Trek franchise

When Paramount Pictures was acquired by the original Viacom holding corporation in 1994, its Marketing and Licensing Department was subsequently absorbed into theirs, and rechristened as "Viacom Consumer Products". (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue (B02), p. 14)

A somewhat ambiguous situation arose in late 2005, when the original Viacom conglomerate was split up into two independent corporations, the television corporation CBS Corporation (which constituted the former Viacom) and a motion picture corporation, which, a bit confusingly perhaps, was called Viacom (new) and of which Paramount Pictures was now a part. The split was formalized in January 2006. CBS has licensed the right to produce Star Trek films to Paramount Pictures, but what was now CBS Consumer Products remained the sole entity responsible for the marketing and licensing of the Star Trek product line for both the television as well as the movie properties, instead of farming it out to Paramount's own division, Paramount Licensing, Inc.

It was on the occasion of the split that CBS Consumer Products was formed, and from start to date, the executive most intimately involved with managing the licensing of Star Trek merchandise was its Vice President, Product Development, John Van Citters, and who has de facto become the face of the department. Another executive of note – with even stronger Star Trek ties – had been prolific Star Trek author Paula Block who ultimately served as the department's Senior Director of Licensing in the period 1989-2009, like Citters, throwing in her lot with CBS when it was split off from Paramount.

To Star Trek fans the licensing policies of the department are on occasion incomprehensible and worse still frustrating, especially in the case of "market discrimination" when a product is officially and legally available in one territory or to a selected group of customers only, but not in/to another, which can cause fans to feel alieniated from the franchise. Examples include the European Original Series VHS releases, the Star Trek Fact Files, the "VAM controversy", The Trek Not Taken special feature, as well as various other consumer products such as those licensed to Japanese companies or the model kit company Revell-Monogram. Robert Meyer Burnett (VAM and The Trek Not Taken producer, and fan) became one of the Star Trek alumni who publicly voiced his befuddlement and frustration at these in his eyes murky department policies in a February 2017 Word Balloon podcast interview (currently posted on YouTube).

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