Something that fans had been expecting and looking forwards to, at least, was the HD/Blu-Ray re-release of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. CBS completed their release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-Ray in December and things looked good that they could roll straight into DS9 and, hopefully, Voyager right after. However, Robert Meyer Burnett, the producer of the documentaries for the TNG Blu-Rays, has tweeted that a DS9 re-release is now less likely, citing low sales for the TNG box sets. The news has stunned Trek fans who'd assumed that the whole franchise was being upgraded and future-proofed.
Burnett later clarified that he had no insider knowledge on a final decision, but the sales were not looking good. This came as slightly more of a relief because all the other indications so far have been that a DS9 re-release was possible (although tricky) even considering the slow take-up of TNG.
To backtrack a little, CBS and Paramount have, between them, so far released all twelve films on Blu-Ray, the complete original Star Trek series, all seven seasons of The Next Generation and all four seasons of Enterprise. That's fourteen seasons of television and twelve films. What is left are the seven seasons of Deep Space Nine and another seven seasons of Voyager, plus the two seasons of the 1970s animated Star Trek series (the latter not really being a priority to most people, but something it'd be nice to have). So CBS have made slightly more than half of the franchise available on Blu-Ray and for HD streaming. It would seriously odd not to complete the process.
TrekCore got the inside info on the 50th Anniversary logo. Exciting. It's note quite clear what the logo is going to actually be on, however.
Cost has been raised as a factor. The original series Blu-Ray releases were extremely popular, selling very well on Blu-Ray and doing well in streaming. TNG started off very well, with strong sales, but tailed off significantly over the course of its run. The cost of the remastering was substantial, with some reports placing the initial set-up and start-up costs, plus the cost of remastering the first season, at over $9 million. Later seasons came down substantially in cost as the team became faster and more proficient, but additional cost savings (such as farming some of the work out to third parties) were lost due to quality issues (the quality of the second season's remastering, handled by an outside company, is notably inferior to the other six). The total cost of remastering all seven seasons has been put at north of $20 million. This was the reason for the high costs of the sets: a RRP of £70 was set in the UK, although most retailers discounted to £50, but this still a lot higher than most Blu-Ray box sets. Burnett suggests that CBS failed to market the remastered series heavily enough and also blames the tailing off of marketing efforts, such as screening some of the remastered two-parter episodes in cinemas, due to legal issues over residuals and pay.
The big issue was, of course, the move from physical media to streaming. Physical media sales are down across the board and Blu-Ray never took in the way DVD did (although some franchises - such as Game of Thrones - are shifting more than half of their discs in the Blu-Ray format now). A lot of customers have skipped Blu-Ray to go to Netflix and Amazon HD streaming. Those who haven't either don't care about new technology and HD in the first place, or are living in areas where the internet infrastructure does not support such streaming.
Oddly, this move may be what eventually saves the situation. As well as being released on Blu-Ray, the HD version of TNG is airing on television and is available for streaming from Amazon. The deals CBS have put in place with international broadcasters have already either turned a profit, or will a few years down the line, and would make a HD DS9 and Voyager more enticing, especially since CBS could then package them together into a much bigger and more interesting deal (711 episodes being almost enough to air two episodes a day every day for a year).
An additional point is that the complete TNG box set (with all seven seasons in one box) has only just been released in the UK and other markets and, preposterously, still isn't out in the USA. I know a lot of Trek fans are waiting for the complete box sets before springing for the Blu-Rays, so for it not to be out yet is just crazy. Sales for the complete series box set are likely to dwarf that of the individual ones and may change the tone of the discussions about DS9 and Voyager.
We've also seen that Fox has released The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in HD to cable TV companies in the States, but has not yet announced a release date for the Blu-Rays. With a new X-Files TV series due on air in 2016, it is likely we will see a tie-in release of the series for that. The rumour is that Fox will not go for individual season box sets but will instead spring for all nine seasons in one box at a more reasonable cost, the same strategy employed by HBO on The Sopranos and The Wire. Buffy and Angel may follow the same model. Fox is funding the remastering in-progress instead with these early TV deals (in Buffy's case, rather too early) instead, which seems to be working for them.
There are of course problems with DS9 and Voyager. The first is simple popularity: the original show and TNG entered the cultural zeitgeist in a way that the later shows did not. DS9's highest-rated episode got barely half of TNG's highest-rated show. However, those high ratings were down to the massive marketing accompanying TNG's return and a dearth of good SFF shows in 1987 which was no longer the case in 1993; the average ratings for the two shows once the outliers are removed were a lot closer. Voyager, on the other hand, aired on a small-viewership cable channel to a fraction of the ratings of either of the other shows.
The second issue is technical. TNG used model shots, shot on film, for almost all of its effects shots, meaning they could simply be upgraded the same way as the live action film. This made the updating process much faster and more efficient. Deep Space Nine, on the other hand, began phasing out model shots in favour of CGI towards the end of its run. From the start of the sixth season onwards, most of the effects shots are in low-resolution CGI. All of these effects shots would need to be re-rendered from scratch, a far higher cost than the remastering on the earlier shows. Voyager has it far worse, with the move to CG effects beginning as early as the third season. Some of the CG artists have kept the models and effects files from both shows, which would simplify the workload, but it does not appear that all of the shots have been saved.
DS9 can be updated to HD fairly straightforwardly: the TNG process has left an efficient workflow and roadmap in place that DS9 can use. Almost all of the first five seasons can be remastered in the same way as TNG was, and although a lot of re-rendering would be needed for the final two seasons, these would be concentrated in just a few episodes. A little bit more complicated than TNG, but doable. In addition, DS9 would likely need a better release strategy, possibly a TV-oriented release on a high-profile platform (DS9's much more serialised storytelling would go down a storm on Netflix) with a complete series Blu-Ray release at the end, as TNG's model clearly did not work. It's all possible, it just needs CBS to stump up the cash for it (so, incidentally, if you were holding off on buying the existing re-masters, now might be a good time to do so).
Unfortunately, I think the prospects for a HD remastering of Voyager are much bleaker. The amount of effects re-rendering needed would be an order of magnitude more complex and expensive than DS9's. For a show with an even smaller potential audience base (if DS9's critical cachet has risen significantly in the last twenty years, Voyager's appears to have dropped), it's unlikely it will happen unless a DS9 remaster, marketed and released better than TNG's, is a huge hit.
Hopefully this can still happen. Of the Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine is arguably the most coherent, consistent in quality and tightly serialised, with ongoing story arcs spanning years and some much-needed subversion and re-examination of the tropes of both science fiction in general and Star Trek in particular. Among other things it paved the way for the newer Battlestar Galactica, with many of its writers and producers working on that show as well. It definitely should be updated and preserved for future generations.