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CBS Consumer Products

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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 DVDs, novels, games, toys, clothing, and merchandise.

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 original live-action production documents and art 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 latter 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 and have fallen under the auspices of the department.


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. The unit, in which Desilu's own publicity department was absorbed, became known as the "Paramount Publicity Department", headed by Howard McClay and Frank Wright, and it were they, aside from handling the legalities surrounding contemporary Star Trek merchandise, who provided author Stephen Edward Poe with the illustrative material for the first Star Trek reference book, The Making of Star Trek. Poe also had professional dealings with the department, as he was the account manager for model kit company AMT in regard to their Star Trek model kit line. (p. 15)

Until 1979 merchandising and licensing was a rather passive and haphazard affair. 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" (still 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. The successful fund drive made Steel's name in the motion picture industry, and a thoroughly impressed Paramount CEO Michael Eisner, who was (in)famous for not being easily impressed, promoted her the next day to vice-president of productions in features, getting her off to a stellar industry career. She had been working in the licensing department for less than six months. (New York Magazine, 29 May 1989, p. 45; 6 September 1993, p. 40; Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, pp. 108-109)

For obvious reasons, Hollywood studios had, and to this day, have been exceptionally loathe to divulge particulars surrounding their revenue streams stemming from licensing and merchandising efforts, Star Trek not excepted. However, Steel, due to the unexpected and exceptional success of her 1979 fund drive, had understandably been somewhat more loose-lipped, unable to resist some bragging at the time. Revealing in January 1980 that General Mills featured Star Trek artwork on 37 million of their cereal boxes, McDonald's had spent US$20 million dollar on TV adds to promote 50 million Star Trek themed "Happy Meals", and that Bally had by that time already totaled up a sale of US$19.5 million of US$1.795 apiece Star Trek themed pin-ball machines, alone, she divulged that by that time she expected that at the most conservative estimations, licensed Star Trek related merchandise would at least amount to US$250 million dollar, with the possibility to reach double that. "Licensed children's merchandise is the last category to suffer in a recession: Dad will give up his suits, but his kids will still get toys and clothes.", she clarified, adding, "Our fee ranges from one to 11 percent, depending on the product." This statement indicated that the studio was to receive at the very least US$2.5 million, or at the very most US$55 million dollar in licensing and merchandising revenues, though it was unlikely that the upper estimate was ever met due to the mixed reception of the movie and the somewhat disappointing sales of related merchandise. (Playboy magazine, January 1980, p. 310)

Concurrently, parent company Gulf+Western had commissioned the development of an accompanying, The Motion Picture-themed, book line (projected at no less than sixteen titles, but of which only about half were actually released, for reasons as indicated above), through subsidiary Pocket Books, which it had acquired in 1975 (and therefore a sister company of Paramount Pictures), and from here on end merchandising and licensing became an integral part of a proactive overall marketing strategy (considerably hammered out by Frank Mancuso, Sr., who was hired as the department's president after Steel had left), in the creation of a sustained Star Trek product line. [1] Reporter Mark A. Altman disclosed that the entire franchise had already passed the US$1 billion dollar mark in total studio revenues by 1993. (Cinefantastique, Vol 24 #3/4, p. 16)

A somewhat ambiguous situation arose in 2005, when the original Viacom holding corporation 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. CBS has licensed the right to produce Star Trek films to Paramount Pictures, but 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.

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