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Paramount+ Review: It’s Single-Source Streaming, but Look What You Get

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Paramount+ may be a single-source streaming service, but it has a lot to offer. It has live sports coverage and is the only source for events like the UEFA Champions League. But it’s a lot more than sports. Read on to learn everything.

In a hurry? The Paramount+ Essential plan costs just $4.99/mo and includes access to live sporting events. Its Premium plan costs $9.99/mo and comes with your local CBS affiliate and it allows you to stream most on-demand content without commercials. Both plans come with a free 7-day trial!

Paramount+ (often: Paramount Plus), the newly-expanded, pumped-up reincarnation of CBS All Access, debuted in March of 2021 to meh to meh-positive reviews. The most consistent positive observation was, with a lot of original content and theatrical movie releases, it had potential in the coming months.

Eight months later, and a lot of the biggest early criticisms — a severe lack of original series at launch, gaps in film franchises, the missing watch list — have been addressed, at least in part.

But is it enough? Do you really need another media conglomerate-specific streaming service? What does Paramount+ bring to the entertainment table?

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March 2022 on Paramount+

  • Live Soccer Games
    • AFC Qualifiers, March 24, 29
    • Concacaf Qualifiers, March 24, 27, 30
    • Italy Serie A, March 4-6, 11-14, 18-21
    • Coppa Italia, March 1, 2
    • Champions League, March 8, 9, 15, 16, 18
    • Europa League, March 10, 17
    • NWSL, March 18-20, 25, 26, 30
  • March Madness
    • Selection Sunday Show, March 16
    • First Round, March 18
    • Second Round, March 20
    • Sweet Sixteen, March 24, 25
    • Elite Eight, March 27

What Is Paramount+

ProsCons
✔ Great price ($4.99/mo)❌ Low ratio of exclusive content
✔ Wide variety of content❌ Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) content only
✔ New shows and movies available fast

There are many advantages to signing up with Paramount+. It is easy on the wallet at only $4.99/mo. And you can save more by paying annually. It also comes with a 7-day free trial.

For this, you get a wide variety of programming blending on-demand and live channels, live sports, popular classic and new movies, classic and new original series, and a solid kids and family library.

In addition, TV episodes are available shortly after airing, and movies are added 45 days after their theatrical release.

There are also some potential downsides of Paramount+, depending on your perspective. For example, all the content is limited to Paramount Global branded material.

And it has one of the lower ratios of exclusive/original content. Much of that content relies heavily on brand recognition and nostalgia (lots of reboots, sequels, and spin-offs). But again, these depend on your perspective. A lot of us are nostalgic and like reboots, sequels, and spin-offs!

CBS All Access

CBS All Access, launched in 2014, was one of the first channel-specific subscription-based streaming services. Containing CBS classic and current series and a handful of originals exclusive to All Access, it was mostly written off as a service for die-hard CBS fans and Trekkies. (It survived largely off the success of Star Trek: Discovery.)

In 2019, CBS and Viacom re-merged and decided to beef up the streaming service. Enter Paramount+.

Paramount+

Paramount+’s relationship to CBS All Access is not unlike HBO Max’s to its predecessor, HBO Now. You take a single-channel app-based service’s content and add to it the content from all the parent company’s successful other brands. Then you top it off with a generous serving of original shows exclusive to the service.

Paramount+ is also similar to newcomer Peacock, in that its core is a broadcast network (NBC) with a long and storied TV library that’s partnered with an equally long and storied movie studio (Universal). It’s a powerful combination, as Disney+ (ABC + Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel) and HBO Max (HBO + Warner Bros.) can attest.

Plans

Paramount+ has two pricing tiers, Essential and Premium, separated mostly by commercials. Both channels have:

  • Live NFL on CBS
  • Live UEFA Europa and Champions League soccer
  • Exclusive live channels: CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live

Essential

  • $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr
  • “Limited” commercials on on-demand shows (with “limited” being relative to commercials on the network broadcast)
  • Ads before but not during movies

Premium

  • $9.99/mo or $99.99/yr
  • Commercial-free on-demand content (live channels will still have ads, and you may see occasional “promotional interruptions” for new or coming soon Paramount+ content)
  • Live local CBS affiliate
  • Expanded live sports coverage (including golf, SEC, and NCAA March Madness)
  • 4K, Dolby Vision, and 4K HDR (HDR10) video formats with Dolby Atmos audio, where available
  • Ability to download programs for offline viewing
Paramount+ Homepage
Paramount+ homepage.

Content

Features are nice, and the price has to be reasonable, but streaming services live or die based on their content. So it’s good for Paramount+’s long-term existence that it has greatly increased its content from its CBS All Access days. It is now bringing all of Paramount Global’s core brands into play.

Shows from channels

Paramount+ features content from six different channel brands, as represented by their own “hubs” in the interface, with popular current and past series available.

CBS

  • 48 Hours
  • 60 Minutes
  • Big Brother
  • Blue Bloods
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Cheers
  • Clarice
  • Criminal Minds
  • CSI
  • CSI: Miami
  • Face the Nation
  • Frasier
  • Hawaii Five-0
  • James Corden
  • NCIS
  • NCIS: Los Angeles
  • NCIS: New Orleans
  • ST:DS9
  • ST:TNG
  • ST:TOS
  • ST:Voyager
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Survivor
  • Twilight Zone
  • Young & The Restless
  • Young Sheldon.

BET

  • Everybody Hates Chris
  • The Game
  • Hit the Floor
  • Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Comedy Central

Comedy Central provides lots of stand-up specials plus:

  • The Daily Show
  • Strangers With Candy
  • Hot in Cleveland
  • Reno 911!
  • Younger
  • Key and Peele
  • Chappelle’s Show.

Nickelodeon

  • Albert
  • All That
  • Afraid of the Dark?
  • The Backyardigans
  • Blue’s Clues
  • Bob the Builder
  • Bubble Guppies
  • CatDog
  • Clarissa Explains it All
  • Dora the Explorer
  • Doug
  • Drake & Josh
  • The Fairly OddParents
  • Henry Danger
  • iCarly
  • Jimmy Neutron
  • Kenan & Kel
  • The Last Airbender
  • Paw Patrol
  • Peppa Pig
  • Rugrats
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • The Thundermans.

MTV/VH1

  • Beavis and Butt-Head
  • Cribs
  • Daria
  • The Hills
  • Jersey Shore
  • The Real World
  • Ridiculousness
  • RuPaul Drag Race
  • Teen Mom.

Smithsonian Channel

  • America’s Hidden Stories
  • Air Disasters
  • Secrets Unlocked
  • Building Star Trek
  • Strange Creatures.

Paramount+ Exclusive Content

  • Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Coyote
  • Evil
  • The Good Fight
  • Guilty Party
  • iCarly (2021)
  • Infinite
  • Kamp Koral
  • Madonna: Madame X
  • No Activity
  • Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
  • Paw Patrol: The Movie
  • A Quiet Place Part II
  • The Real World: Homecoming
  • The Stand
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • Star Trek: Picard
  • Strange Angel
  • Tell Me A Story
  • The Twilight Zone (2019)
  • Why Women Kill.

Film library

  • AI Artificial Intelligence
  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • Aeon Flux
  • Black Sheep
  • Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
  • Chinatown
  • Election
  • The Elephant Man
  • Failure to Launch
  • From Dusk till Dawn
  • The Godfather films
  • Grease
  • The Indiana Jones films
  • Jackass: The Movie
  • Kingpin
  • Minority Report
  • Mission: Impossible (all 6)
  • Nacho Libre
  • The Nutty Professor (1963)
  • Roman Holiday
  • Sahara
  • Scrooged
  • Sin City
  • Snow Day
  • Star Trek (all 13)
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Switch
  • To Catch a Thief (1955)
  • The Truman Show
  • The Uninvited
  • Up in Smoke
  • Vanilla Sky.

Live TV and sports

Paramount+ comes with three channels exclusive to it:

  • CBSN: a 24-hour national news channel
  • CBS Sports HQ: a 24-hour channel for news, scores, and highlights
  • ET Live: a 24-hour channel featuring entertainment and celebrity news.

In addition to those, the Premium plan offers a live stream of your local CBS affiliate. This is a particularly good addition if you use a streaming service that does not provide CBS like Sling TV or Vidgo. (Note: premium subscribers will still see commercials on all four live streams.)

Both plans include some live sporting events as well, though you need to keep in mind for all the sports programming that Paramount+ can only carry what airs on CBS. Note that this is subject to regional limitations and blackouts.

All subscribers have NFL and UEFA pages in the app or on the website they can tune into for live games. Premium subscribers have access to all the sports CBS and CBS Sports Network cover, including NFL, SEC, golf, hockey, NCAA March Madness, women’s soccer, Combate Global MMA, and more.

Add-ons

When Paramount+ first started up, sister-channel Showtime was available as a $5.99 add-on. That deal is gone, but you can bundle the two by adding Showtime to a Paramount+ subscription, or vice versa, and save $2 on the Essential plan or $3 off the Premium plan.

TVs and Other Streaming Devices

The streaming industry has come of age over the last few years and now most devices can be used to watch your favorite TV shows and sporting events. Paramount+ provides support that is as good or better than most other streaming services.

These include:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android mobile devices
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Chromecast
  • iOS (iPhone and iPad)
  • LG TV
  • PlayStation 4
  • Portal TV
  • Roku
  • Samsung TV
  • Vizio TV
  • Xbox
  • Xfinity Flex and X1
  • Web browsers.

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User Experience

Paramount+’s interface is fairly consistent across browsers and devices. It has mostly the standard features you expect from a streaming service: the ability to mark favorites, genre groupings, profiles for different household members, kid restrictions.

Note that the parental controls have a fairly major loophole in that adult profiles are not password- or pin-restricted, so kids can freely switch between them.

An early common criticism of the service was that it lacked a watch list that users could queue up for future viewing. We’re happy to report that as of June 2021, Paramount+ does indeed have a watchlist, called “My List.” You can list up to 50 items, and it’s available on all Paramount+ supported devices.

Target Audiences

Paramount+ is good for:

  • Families with kids: with tons of Nick-branded programming from the last thirty years, there is no shortage of entertainment for kids of all ages. If you prefer your kids watch more educational fare, the Smithsonian Channel has a range of documentaries, including ones showcasing nature and history.
  • Star Trek fans: Trekkies pretty much kept CBS All Access alive, and ViacomCBS is responding with a flurry of new Trek content that shows no signs of slowing, with at least two new series this year and at least four more announced to come. And their library now includes all 13 movies.
  • Nostalgia fans: Whether you’re tuning in to Clarissa Explains it All and Are You Afraid of the Dark? to recapture that Snick feeling, or you pull up old episodes of Cribs and The Real World on MTV, or you want your own kids to join Steve and Blue on the Thinking Chair, Paramount+ is a TV time machine for anyone who was a kid from 1990 through 2010. C’mon, we know you’re wondering now if they carry Hey Dude (they do) or The Adventures of Pete & Pete (they do not).
  • Paramount Pictures fans: The service is taking a cue from HBO Max and hurrying Paramount’s theatrical releases to Paramount+, though not quite as promptly as HBO Max’s simultaneous premieres. As seen earlier this year with A Quiet Place Part II and Paw Patrol: The Movie, Paramount’s theatrical releases will stream on Paramount+ 45 days after their theatrical release; look for Jackass Forever, Top Gun: Maverick, and Mission: Impossible 7 next year.

Alternatives

Of course, Paramount+ isn’t the only streaming service around. Check out the competition.

Peacock TV

NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock is the only one in this section that has a free option. There will be ads, and you won’t have access to everything, but you can watch older episodes of various NBC and Peacock shows. Otherwise, the pricing is about the same as Paramount+ or Hulu: $4.99/mo for the ad-supported plan and $9.99/mo for the ad-free plan.

Also of particular note to Paramount Network viewers, hit series Yellowstone‘s seasons 1-3 are available exclusively here on Peacock, not Paramount+.

Disney+

Disney+ is a relative newbie to the streaming game with its own enormous body of Disney/Pixar content. It also owns ABC, ESPN, 20th Century (half of Fox, it’s complicated), Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. That list kind of speaks for itself. They provide a lot for $7.99/mo.

And Disney’s been announcing new Marvel series right and left (WandaVision, Hawkeye, What If…?, Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — and that was just this year), and constantly expanding the Star Wars universe with shows like The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch.

ESPN+

If your interest in Paramount+ is its sports content, ESPN+ for $6.99/mo is a great choice. It doesn’t include any live NFL games but it does a great job everywhere else including full coverage of La Liga and MLS Gold Cup.

Hulu (on-demand)

Hulu’s biggest advantage, aside from the sheer size and diversity of its library, is that new episodes of the series it carries typically drop the next day as they air, as opposed to Netflix, where fans have to wait months after the season wraps its original run for it to be available.

Hulu’s on-demand service starts at $6.99/mo with ads, or you can save by paying a year at a time ($69.99/year). Ditching commercials makes it $12.99/mo.

Even better, you can get the Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle for just $13.99/mo ($19.99/mo for no-ads). We think it’s the best streaming deal around.

HBO Max

HBO Max’s focus is mostly on-demand, though if you subscribe through a live TV service you’ll also get the linear HBO channels. HBO has also secured exclusive rights to various random big-name series like Friends, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory. Plus, HBO Max carries Warner Bros and DC theatrical releases for thirty days after they’re released in theaters.

HBO Max is $9.99/mo with ads or $14.99/mo for an ad-free experience.

Netflix

Netflix is the original on-demand streaming service, and the first to create high-quality must-see original series like Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Things. Netflix ranges from $8.99/mo to $17.99/mo.

All the content is available to all three pricing tiers, but features like the number of screens you can watch on and HD availability increase as the price goes up.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon’s Prime Video library is extensive — bigger than Hulu’s — if not quite as exclusive. You can enjoy Amazon originals like Homecoming and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. You can also subscribe to a wide array of channels and other streaming services as a la carte add-ons (including Paramount+ Premium, if you want).

Prime Video is $8.99/mo, but most people get it included with their Amazon Prime membership, which is $12.99/mo or $119/year and has a bunch of other Amazon benefits.

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is one of a number of channels and services you can subscribe to through the Apple TV app, including Paramount+ Premium. Apple TV+ costs the same as Paramount+ Essential ($4.99/mo) with two important differences. First, it’s only Apple Original programs, such as Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, and Foundation. And second, there are no commercials.

Summary

At the end of the day, unless you already see something above that you really really want to watch, you should probably give it a pass for now and just go with a live TV streaming service that includes CBS and its ViacomCBS sister-channels, like Hulu + Live TV or FuboTV.

Of course, at $4.99/mo, Paramount+ is a great part of any wider streaming collection. And it has a lot to offer sports fans too.

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FAQs

Is Paramount+ worth getting?

Paramount+ is definitely a huge improvement over CBS All Access in terms of quantity and diversity of content. If you’re already in one of the target audience groups above, particularly Star Trek fans, you should at least check it out (with a seven-day free trial, you have nothing to lose).

Is Paramount+ available as a channel on Prime Video?

Paramount+ is available on Amazon Prime but only the Premium ($9.99/mo) plan. The cheaper ad-supported Essential plan is not currently supported. You can, if you want, verify your Amazon-based Paramount+ subscription through paramountplus.com, and if you do that, you have the option of watching Paramount+ through Amazon Prime Video or through the Paramount+ app or website.

How do I get Paramount+ for free?

You can’t get Paramount+ for free beyond the free seven-day trial. But you can watch Pluto TV anytime, which is completely free. It is also owned by ViacomCBS and features a lot of its content. You won’t see anything especially new there, but it’s a good streaming service — especially for free.

Why am I seeing commercials on Paramount+?

There are two potential reasons you are seeing commercials on Paramount+. First, you may have the Essential plan, which is supported by ads. That’s why the plan costs half what the Premium plan costs. The second reason you might see commercials is that you are watching one of the live channels. Even the Premium plan has those. There is no way around that.

Note that all programming is subject to “promotional interruptions” — that’s 10-15 seconds of Paramount+ hyping itself — and previews for Paramount+ originals at the beginning of shows. This is similar to what you see on PBS. But without pledge breaks!

And finally, according to the website, some shows have ads regardless:

  • American Gothic (season 1)
  • BrainDead (season 1)
  • Limitless (season 1)
  • Salvation (season 1)
  • Life In Pieces (season 3)
  • Madam Secretary (all seasons)
  • NCIS (all seasons).

What countries is Paramount+ available in?

Paramount+ is widely available. For some time, it has been available in 25 markets including the USA, Canada, Australia, Latin America, and Nordic countries. But in October 2021, SVP Programming & Acquisitions at ViacomCBS Networks International, Douglas Craig said that Paramount+ was going to launch throughout Europe in 2022. If your country isn’t yet included, keep checking — Paramount+ is growing fast.

Alanna Baker

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