Nobody likes watching ads. I certainly don't, but sometimes, it's just a fact of streaming life. Unless, of course, you pony up the money to get the ad-free tier. In the case of Paramount Plus, I paid $10 to get the premium plan so I could watch the new season of Younger sans commercials.
But Paramount Plus is so awful, I actually ended up watching the first four episodes on Hulu, with ads, instead. Yes, I chose ads. The interface and design of Paramount Plus are that bad.
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This isn't to say Hulu is a dream to use, either, though their interface redesign last year was a major improvement. Even the best streaming services out there can be dinged for failings in user experience. Netflix and Disney Plus need to fix their Continue Watching sections, for example.
And we get it, new streaming services are often plagued by glitches and issues. HBO Max is our favorite streaming service, but at launch, it wasn't easy to browse titles by genre or brand. They've improved their collections and navigation over the last 11 months and continue to do.
Paramount Plus may seem like an infant streamer, as it debuted in early March. But it was built on the bones of CBS All Access, so it's not like they had to start from scratch. That predecessor also featured a clunky UI, but how did ViacomCBS not put some resources behind spiffing it up for the rebranding and relaunch?
And they really should have because, ironically, having more content (on top of what CBS All Access already had) makes Paramount Plus even harder to use.
Why can't I find stuff on Paramount Plus?
Using Paramount Plus right now feels very ... antiquated. I guess that's keeping in line with the image of CBS (older viewers), but the feeling doesn't come from the content but from the actual experience of it.
Navigating Paramount Plus feels like the very early days of Netflix streaming, circa 2012. I don't think it even has an algorithm. There doesn't seem to be any real rhyme, reason or data behind their Trending Shows section, as it's basically remained the same for over a month. Are that many people still watching the SpongeBob SquarePants movie Kamp Koral? Seems dubious.
Paramount Plus is lacking two major features that almost every one of its competitors has: a Continue Watching area and favorites/watchlist.
The former does exist for some users. I don't see it on my Paramount Plus app on Apple TV or on the web, but a couple of my co-workers have a Keep Watching section. Admittedly, I'm fine if it never populates for me, since that's one area on other streamers that aggravates me (dear Disney Plus: I have, in fact, watched the entire second episode of WandaVision).
But no favorites or a watchlist? It's mind-boggling! Maintaining and managing your queue is a cornerstone feature of a streaming service. And if I (and presumably other users) don't have a Keep Watching area, then how am I supposed to know when my favorite shows are back for a new season if I can't even mark shows as favorites? Which brings to me my experience trying to watch Younger.
Better the devil you know ...
One of the reasons I paid for Paramount Plus beyond the free initial trial was to watch Younger season 7, which moved from the cable network TV Land to streaming.
However, it's not exclusive to Paramount Plus; it's also available on Hulu.
Last week, when the first four episodes of Younger premiered, I fired up Paramount Plus. Younger wasn't highlighted in the top hero (or at least, in the first slot). Nor was it in Trending Shows or Shows Recommended For You.
I thought about searching for it, using my remote to painstakingly select all the correct letters. And then, I thought to check Hulu. When I opened that app, Younger was featured in the second row, TV For You.
I have the Hulu plan with ads, but I watched it there anyway just because it was so much easier. And for today's new episode of Younger, when I looked at both Paramount Plus and Hulu, guess which one had it right there at the top?
Watching ads is unpleasant, but navigating the mountain that is Paramount Plus without any kind of digital sherpa is even worse. And when there's so much competition in the streaming landscape, Paramount Plus will really need to step it up if it wants to keep this subscriber.