ViacomCBS launched Paramount Plus on March 4 as a new and improved version of the previous CBS All Access, with the intent of competing with more robust streaming alternatives like Peacock, Disney Plus, and HBO Max.
Paramount+ came out swinging with more than 30,000 episodes of TV series and a rotating lineup of 2,500 movies. And while the newest streamer on the block has some kinks to work out, it's already setting itself apart by providing access to series you probably haven't been able to find online for the last decade.
While the temptation of something being shiny and new may be enough, it's fair to wonder how the new service really compares to other streaming platforms. With that in mind, here's our Paramount+ review.
Bottom line: Paramount+ is a great streaming service for people who want to stay up-to-date on their favorites CBS series and sports coverage, as well as revisit the shows and films they grew up watching. While the current media library has some blind spots, the variety of content from networks including BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon — as well as a solid collection of films — means there's lots to catch up on.
- New and original content
- Access to nostalgic series
- Live TV channels and sports coverage
- Holes in the media library
- Simultaneous streaming limited to three devices
- Limited film collection
Paramount+: Price and availability
Paramount+ currently offers two subscription levels. The Limited Commercials plan costs just $5.99 per month ($60/year), while the No Commercials plan for $9.99 per month ($100/year). Choosing an annual plan can save you over 15% extra on the overall cost, but you'll have to pay for the entire year up-front.
While there was no change in price when CBS All Access transitioned to Paramount+, the Limited Commercials plan will be replaced with a similar $5 per month plan beginning in June 2021. The new plan will offer the same lineup of live NFL games, news, and entertainment but will no longer include local live CBS station programming. If you subscribe to the existing plan before June, you'll have continued access to the live programming.
Regarding where the service is currently available, Paramount+ launched in the United States, Canada, and Latin America on March 4 on iOS, Android, Chromecast, and Roku devices. The Paramount+ app is also compatible with Apple TV, Fire TV, Portal TV, and Samsung smart TVs. The refreshed service is next scheduled to debut in Nordic countries on March 25, while Australia is expected to get the streaming service later in 2021.
Paramount+: Design and user experience
As far as how Paramount+ looks on both your web browser and television screen, it's comparable to most of the other streaming big hitters.
Upon signing into your account, you have the option to explore content via categories, including Shows, Movies, and Live TV. A secondary tier gives you the option to select specific brand tabs to browse content from ViacomCBS-owned networks, including CBS, BET, Comedy Central, and MTV. While selecting content by network is convenient, I didn't like that the curated carousels within each tab are limited to "Trending Now" and "A-Z." In my experience, it's nice to have some genre-centric carousels for more targeted browsing.
The curated carousels within each brand tab are limited to "Trending Now" and "A-Z."
The Paramount+ home page also keeps track of what you and other subscribers are watching by organizing content under Trending Shows, Recently Added, and Trending Movies. Once you start streaming, the home page also includes a helpful "Keep Watching" carousel for all the content you're currently in the process of watching.
Additional sections on the home page highlight content unique to Paramount+, including a collection of its best Star Trek-related shows and movies under "Space: The Final Frontier," "Sports," and "Originals."
Regarding the functionality of Paramount+, I've had no issues with the play, rewind, and fast forward functions while watching Paramount+ content in a web browser or on my Smart TV while using the Amazon Fire TV Stick interface and remote.
The key difference in accessing Paramount+ via the mobile app is the navigation tabs, which are located at the bottom of your screen, versus the top on TVs and web browsers. In the mobile app, the "Browse" tab specifically allows you to browse within two major categories: Shows and Movies. You'll also have the option to pick specific genres within each category, which I consider to be a necessary tool for these platforms.
I also appreciate that Paramount+ allows you to access the app on your TV via the mobile app.
As someone who loathes how long it takes to log in to an app directly on your smart TV, I also appreciate that Paramount+ allows you to access the app on your TV via the mobile app. All you need to do is confirm that both devices are using the same Wi-Fi network and sign in to Paramount+ on your TV via the mobile app. You can then cast any content you want from the mobile app directly to your selected smart TV.
If you're accessing the Paramount+ app on a mobile phone or tablet, it's also super easy to download content to watch offline. There's just one caveat: you have to be a Premium subscriber.
Similar to competitors like Netflix and Hulu, Paramount+ allows you to create multiple profiles under one main account. The service currently allows up to six profiles, which include separate Keep Watching and Recommended carousels to reflect the tastes of each profile owner without the added shame of being judged by your friends and family.
You're also able to set up parental controls on specific profiles within one account. There's no limit to how many devices you can log in to with the Paramount+ app, whether you're on a mobile device, streaming player, or smart TV. However, you're only able to stream content on three separate devices simultaneously across profiles.
Paramount+ also offers a couple of different ways to enact parental controls.
Paramount+ also offers a couple of different ways to enact parental controls. The first way is to create a separate profile and switch the Kids Mode Button on, which restricts more mature content. You can get even more specific by selecting whether the content should be aimed at Older Kids or Younger Kids.
The second option for setting parental controls is to select a specific profile and navigate to the Account page. From there, you'll scroll down to the Profiles & Parental Controls section and turn the Parental Controls toggle on. One thing I noticed while playing with this feature is that you can only change parental control settings from the Paramount+ website and can't manage parental controls on the mobile app.
While access to live CBS content varies depending on which level of subscription you choose, Paramount+ is already proving to be a giant step ahead of its predecessor. But the main difference between the previous CBS All Access platform and the new Paramount+ is the amount — and variety — of content now available digitally.
Paramount+ tends to cater to fans who previously subscribed to CBS All Access, and as a major Criminal Minds fan, having access to all 15 seasons of the show on Paramount+ is a major get. In addition to classic CBS standbys, Paramount+ also launched with 20 exclusive original shows, which is more than any other major streaming platform has delivered at launch.
Paramount+ was able to achieve this, in part, by bringing over a handful of series that first debuted on CBS All Access, including The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and the new Silence of the Lambs prequel series Clarice. Beyond that, Paramount+ has also promised revivals of Frasier, Criminal Minds, and Rugrats in the near future. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that you won't find the Paramount Network's most buzzworthy show — Yellowstone — on the platform right now. However, Yellowstone is likely to land on the platform at some point in the future. Its planned spinoff, 6666, is also already set to air exclusively on Paramount+.
Paramount+ may also be the best streaming platform for kids — and adults like me who want to revisit the series they grew up on.
Paramount+ may also be the best streaming platform for kids, and adults like me, who want to revisit the series they grew up on. Specifically, Paramount+ is the digital hub for all things Nickelodeon and recently debuted a SpongeBob SquarePants prequel series called Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years. Adults who spent their formative years hoping to get slimed will also love the current media library, which includes Nick favorites like All That and Are You Afraid of the Dark? While the viewing quality of those older shows isn't up to the standards of newer programming, it's far from unwatchable.
It's worth pointing out that, when Paramount+ launched, it did so with 47 different titles available in 4K on Roku 4K-enabled models, Fire TV 4K-enabled devices, Android 4K TVs, and the Apple TV 4K (5th generation). The bulk of that high-resolution is currently centered in Paramount+ originals and Smithsonian Channel nature docs, and it's unclear when the platform will expand its 4K catalog.
Another hiccup on the service is the fact that full seasons of shows and installments are missing due to licensing issues. An example of this would be the fact that only Seasons 2-5 are available of All That, Rocket Power only has one season available, and subscribers can currently only access Season 3 of FBI.
As far as movies are concerned, Paramount+ currently offers an impressive collection of classic films, including The Godfather trilogy, Titanic, True Grit, and the Indiana Jones franchise. However, the missing content problem extends to a handful of film franchises available on Paramount+. At this time, only the sequels to movies like Grease, Bad News Bears, and Charlie's Angels are available on the platform right now.
Paramount+: The competition
One of the biggest questions about Paramount+ is how it compares to competing streamers like Disney+, Netflix, and HBO Max. And that's where we have a lot to unpack.
While Disney+ had its hiccups when it launched more than a year ago, it's had time to work things out. Disney+ also comes out on top regarding all the new and classic Disney content you crave. Additionally, that platform has the advantage of being home to new Marvel and Star Wars series, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the first two seasons of the Mandalorian.
When it comes to the streaming wars, Netflix remains dominant because of its standing as the first-ever streaming service and its ever-expanding library of original series and award-winning films. Like Disney+, Netflix also has a key feature that Paramount+ does not: The ability to skip the opening credits of a series when you're watching consecutive episodes. While Paramount+ remains competitive because of its cheaper price points and nostalgic catalog, it remains to be seen if the platform's planned original content will compare.
Where Paramount+ clearly trumps Disney+, Netflix and HBO Max is in regard to live content.
HBO Max is also on the newer side but has been boosted by Warner Bros.'s decision to release its full slate of 2021 films in theaters and on the platform simultaneously. Paramount+ may prove to be a worthy competitor, however, because of an already-announced licensing deal that will see a selection of newly-released Paramount films being made available on the streaming platform 30 to 45 days after being released in theaters.
Several other films are set to appear 90 days after their theatrical release as part of the deal. I, for one, am stoked to catch films like A Quiet Place 2 and Mission Impossible 7 from the comfort of my couch only a month after its release.
Where Paramount+ trumps, Disney+, Netflix, and HBO Max is concerning live content and sports coverage. Currently, Paramount+ offers four live channels as part of its Premium plan: CBS local news, CBS News network (24/7), CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live.
Subscribers can also tune in to major sports events like The NFL on CBS and The Masters, as well as exclusive English-language coverage of UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League matches. The only other streaming platform that offers comparable live content is Hulu, as part of its $64.99 per month Hulu + Live TV plan.
Paramount+: Should you subscribe?
You should buy this if ...
- You want to revisit older series from networks like Nickelodeon and MTV
- You're stoked about the revivals and reboots coming to Paramount+ next
- You don't want to go to the theater to see new Paramount films
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want access to new films immediately
- You're not a fan of true crime procedurals
- Paramount+ originals aren't really your jam
Ultimately, time will tell if Paramount+ truly has what it takes to compete in the streaming world. Yet its commitment to kids programming and nostalgic collections, as well as the promise that revivals and reboots of fan-favorite projects are on the way, give me a good feeling about the platform's future.
There's something comforting about knowing exactly where you need to go to watch the shows and movies you were obsessed with as a kid, and for anything non-Disney, Paramount+ is exactly the place for that. With affordable prices and a live TV option that won't break the bank, Paramount+ is definitely worth checking out.
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