If you watched the 2021 Super Bowl, you almost certainly saw some nonsensical commercials showing off yet another high-profile streaming service: Paramount+. But a lot of the characters and shows featured in the spots, particularly Star Trek, already has a home on CBS All Access. What’s the deal?
Update: ViacomCBS announced official pricing, and while the ad-free tier will remain the same $9.99 a month price, the ad-supported tier will drop from $5.99 a month to $4.99 a month. It won’t offer live TV anymore, though, so you may want to grab the one year for half off deal on the current plan.
What you’re seeing isn’t the dropping of one service and the launch of another, but rather the gradual transition into a new bit of branding. Paramount+ has been in the works ever since the mega-media merger of CBS and Viacom in 2019. The new combined ViacomCBS media empire owns a ton of brands, including CBS Television, Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, and a lot of more scattered properties.
This is actually the third time the two companies have reformed after being split apart: The original Columbia Broadcasting System renamed itself to Viacom in 1970, after which it spun off CBS television into its own company. After buying both Paramount and MTV, among others, Viacom reacquired the CBS TV empire in 1999. The companies were broken up again in 2006, both still operating under parent company National Amusements. After a lot of boardroom intrigue, the companies remerged in 2019. Corporate M&A history gets weird sometimes.
A resurgent ViacomCBS is teaming up to fight growing consolidation in the streaming market following the Disney-Fox merger, and Warner Media’s massive push with HBO Max. Paramount+, the new name for CBS All Access and a host of new streaming content, is the result.
Table of Contents
Because ViacomCBS has not lost any of its content library in the merger, Paramount+ will essentially be a renaming and relaunch of CBS All Access. That means that all of the shows and movies currently accessible to CBS All Access subscribers will remain in place. The service will simply switch over on the March 4th launch date—current users will see their CBS All Access accounts and apps updated to reflect the new branding.
In addition to the catalog of CBS television shows and original, streaming-exclusive series like Star Trek Discovery, The Good Fight, The Stand, and The Twilight Zone, the merger will add a bunch of new content. Highlighted in the pre-launch is advertising content from the following libraries:
- CBS television, including live broadcasts of the local affiliate
- CBS Sports productions, including some live events
- Back catalog of Paramount movies (approximately 1000 at launch)
- Comedy Central
- The Smithsonian Channel
However, calling all of this new content “new” is somewhat misleading. After the latest Viacom merger, CBS All Access started adding in some of the content from the Viacom library right away. Notably, the CBS All Access movie catalog currently includes about 650 entries (though dozens of those are one-off stand-up comedy specials and Smithsonian Channel TV documentaries).
It seems clear that the Paramount+ switch-over will include a ton of new stuff. But if you’re not enticed by any of the current catalog on CBS All Access, then you probably won’t be impressed by Paramount+, either.
Paramount+ will have all of CBS All Access’s original shows, plus new exclusive TV and a few movies. According to both the CBS official listing and various media reports, the upcoming library includes:
- Three new Star Trek series: Strange New Worlds and Section 31, and an animated show for children, Prodigy.
- The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, a new animated movie available on launch day (previously unavailable in the U.S.)
- Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, an animated prequel series
- 8 Fights, a documentary series on Muhammad Ali
- A reboot of iCarly
- A new Flashdance TV series
- For Heaven’s Sake, a comedic true crime series
- A reboot of The Game series from BET
- Girls With Guns, a new series from Ridley Scott
- Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, a period comedy
- Guilty Party, a dark comedy series
- Happy Face, a thriller show
- The Harper House, an animated comedy series
- Lioness, a thriller series
- The Man Who Fell to Earth, a sci-fi series based on a classic novel
- Mercy House, an adaptation of a thriller novel
- MTV’s Behind the Music: The Top 40
- The Multivorce, an animated sci-fi comedy
- The Offer, a drama miniseries
- The Real Criminal Minds, a true crime documentary series
- Remote, a workplace comedy
- Twenty Four Seven, a thriller series
- Y: 1883, a prequel to Yellowstone
- You’re Killing Me, a supernatural comedy-drama
It isn’t clear which new Paramount movies will come to the service, or how fast, considering the ever-evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Warner Bros. has promised all of its 2021 releases for same-day streaming on HBO Max, while Disney has released some movies on Disney+ for free, others for a one-time fee. At the moment the new SpongeBob film is the only major release to hit Paramount+, after a long-delayed theatrical release in the US.
Paramount+ will continue the ad-free pricing model of CBS All Access, but the ad-supported tier will drop in price and features.. The current U.S. price for CBS All Access is:
- $5.99 a month with commercials
- $9.99 ad-free (live broadcasts still have advertising)
Customers can save a bit with yearly billing: $60 and $100, a savings of $12 and $20, respectively. At the moment CBS All Access is running a promotion: Pay for a year of the commercial-free service before the Paramount+ switch-over, and you get a 50% discount, which will remain active as the new service starts. You must sign up for CBS All Access before March 4th to qualify.
Paramount+ on the other hand will cost $9.99 a month for commercial free access with live broadcasts. The cheaper ad-supported option will cost $4.99 a month when it launches in June, and it won’t include live broadcasts. You’ll save a dollar a month, but lose out on a major feature.
The CBS All Access ad-supported plan will be available until March 4, and anyone on the plan will be grandfathered in its live tv feature. If you care about local CBS stations and sports, subscribe to that now before it leaves forever.
CBS All Access is only available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and Paramount+ will be in all three countries. Paramount+ will also launch in Latin America on March 4th. An expansion into Nordic countries and other unspecified markets is planned in the future. Availability of shows and movies will vary from market to market.
CBS has stated that the CBS All Access app will be updated into the Paramount+ app on March 4th. CBS All Access is currently available on:
- iOS and iPad OS
- Apple TV
- Amazon Fire TV, Fire tablets
- Android TV
- Portal TV
- Smart TV platforms from Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Xfinity
And naturally, Paramount+ will be available from standard web browsers on Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS, and Linux by visiting ParamountPlus.com.