CBS All Access recently rebranded itself as Paramount Plus, updating its streaming service in the process. Now, in addition to the CBS programming it already offered, it has pricing tiers and live TV and movies and sports. It even has content from other networks like BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. It’s bigger, it’s prettier, and none of that really matters, because whether or not you should subscribe to Paramount Plus rather than other services depends on your answers to the following three questions:
Do you like Star Trek?
Do you like police procedurals?
Does anyone in your house enjoy Nickelodeon?
If you answered “yes” to any of those, then Paramount Plus’s free trial is probably worth checking out. If you answered “yes” to all three, sign up immediately because this is the best TV streaming service for you... in spite of its other flaws.
Paramount Plus review: TV shows
For many, the appeal of Paramount Plus can be summed up by two simple words: Star Trek. Every iteration of the show, including the newest flavors of Discovery and Strange New Worlds, live on the service. What Disney Plus is for MCU fans, Paramount Plus is for Trekkies.
Paramount Plus of course has other TV programming If boldly going isn’t really your thing, and while it’s a mix of everything CBS has ever had to offer, there’s a very definite lean towards law and order (but not Law & Order). CSI, NCIS, FBI, SWAT, and JAG are all present, alongside newer justice-themed shows like Clarice and The Equalizer. There’s also The Love Boat for anyone who’d like to meet their soulmate over a long weekend in Cabo San Lucas, and a healthy spate of reality shows like Love Island and Survivor.
The stronger lineup of TV programming comes from Nickelodeon. Peppa Pig, Blue’s Clues, Rugrats, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Kenan & Kel, Rocko’s Modern Life, iCarly, Dora the Explorer...it’s all there, and it’s all great. This means it's perfect for families with young kids who crave entertainment.
The other brands under the Paramount umbrella - BET, Comedy Central, MTV, and The Smithsonian Channel - all have their own programming highlights, but none of them are likely enough to make the service worth a subscription by themselves.
Paramount Plus: Movies
If you’re old enough to remember browsing the aisles of a video rental shop, looking for something to watch on a Sunday afternoon because you’ve already seen all the new releases, you’ll feel right at home in Paramount Plus’s movie section. There are some winners and some clunkers, but it’s all pretty dusty. Of course, a movie being a few years old doesn’t negate its ability to entertain, and a look through Paramount Plus’s listings will reveal some favorite films you’ve forgotten about.
Just not very many of them. Paramount Plus’s movie library is surprisingly small. A browse through the Comedy section, for example, reveals a large number of stand-up specials but not that many funny films. Given that the service only just launched, it seems likely that more titles will be added, but for now, the movie choices are a little skimpy.
Paramount Plus: Pricing
Like many other streaming services, Paramount Plus offers pricing tiers based on how much you care about commercials. The Limited Commercials option goes for $5.99/month, while Commercial Free is $9.99/month. The Commercial Free plan also allows you to download programming and watch it offline, which an unusual bonus in a streaming service. Whichever way you go, you can then decide if you want to pay monthly, or plump for the annual fee and save 15% overall.
You can try Paramount Plus for free with a 30-day free trial.
Paramount Plus: Quality of Stream
We tested Paramount Plus on an iPad mini 2, iPhone 8, AppleTV, and iMac. The experience was less than ideal on every platform tested with the exception of Apple TV. The navigation on iMac was particularly frustrating. On virtually every other streaming service, clicking on a movie selection will bring up a plot summary, but here, it just takes you right into the film...where there is no back button to return to the menu. Instead, you have to navigate to the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t menu bar at the top of the screen.
There’s a nice big icon should you want to cast your stream to a nearby device, but an easy way to return to the previous screen is apparently too much to ask. Paramount Plus allows for separate profiles but doesn’t have a “My List” or similar queue function.
Should you subscribe to Paramount Plus?
With so many other streaming services to choose from, there just isn’t a huge reason to subscribe to Paramount Plus unless you’re a Star Trek or Nickelodeon fan. Much of what Paramount Plus has to offer is nice to have, but not necessary.
The library of movies is decent, but is relatively small and certainly no better than a Netflix or HBO Max. The service also doesn’t make any effort to surface its content in any kind of interesting way, instead choosing to dump it all into the usual buckets of Drama, Thriller, and Kids, making it harder to find something to watch.
Paramount Plus's strength is in its TV lineup, which boasts a large legacy library. That said, the newer TV content is aimed at a very specific viewer (one awaits new episodes of Big Brother with breathless anticipation), and if you’re not that, you won’t be impressed. If you simply can’t live without constant access to both versions of Hawaii Five-O, you can probably give Paramount Plus a miss.