Paramount Plus started out life as CBS All Access. A rebranding and redesign in March 2021 gave the streaming service a glow up in multiple ways. It not only got a new name and a face lift but also a vote of confidence from its parent company, Paramount (then called ViacomCBS). Now, in 2023, the service will get more expensive, as a Paramount Plus price hike arrives alongside Showtime's addition in a premium, ad-free tier.
Now, Paramount Plus is no longer just a platform housing CBS reruns, classic movies and a couple of originals. It’s investing in more content to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus. The service is still just a toddler, though, and has some ways to go before it ascends to that rarified streaming level.
Paramount Plus has a decent library, some great originals and access to live sports, like the NFL. But is it an absolutely necessary addition to my monthly streaming budget? Read more of this Paramount Plus review to find out.
Paramount Plus review: Price and availability
Paramount Plus offers two tiers, pricing will change later this year, as a Paramount Plus price hike arrived in time for it its merger with Showtime.
Currently, the Essential Plan costs $5.99 per month (or $59.99/year), up from $4.99 and $49.99, respectively. This tier plays with ads. The plan does not include the live local CBS station feed, but does provide access to NFL on CBS and UEFA Champions League.
The $9.99/$99.99 Premium plan (previously called Commercial-Free) is gone, now replaced by the Paramount Plus with Showtime tier, which costs $11.99 per month (or $119.99/year) and its streams are mostly ad-free. You get access to your local CBS station, though commercials will play on the live feed. And other shows have “brief promotional interruptions” about other Paramount Plus programming.
Paramount Plus review: Interface
These days, the interfaces of most of the best streaming services look very similar. Paramount Plus isn’t much different from Netflix, Disney Plus or Peacock. At the top, there’s a large carousel of featured content and a menu of major Paramount brands (CBS, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Smithsonian Channel).
Then comes the My List row, featuring shows and movies that I’ve added. Below that are genre groupings and interest collections, like Drama Shows and Trending Movies.
Depending on which device you’re using, the navigation may appear on the left or via a burger button icon at the top. The sections are Search, Home, Shows, Movies, Live TV, News, Brands and My List.
Most of those will be familiar to users of other streaming services. Both the Movies and Shows hubs highlight “popular” titles, as well as sub-genres. The A-Z listings for these sections are very helpful (and something competitors could stand to add).
Paramount Plus stands out with their Live TV section, which looks like a cable TV grid. You can browse channels including CBS, CBS News and ET Live. There are other themed channels that resemble ones you find on the free service Pluto (also owned by Paramount) — stuff like Movies, TV Classics, Star Trek, Crime and Justice and Adult Animation. Live TV offerings also include various soccer feeds, such as Champions League and Europa League. It's also one of the few streaming services where you can watch March Madness as well as Selection Sunday.
A warning: Live TV truly is live. You can’t rewind (Peacock has the same problem), fast forward or even pause. Watching the live CBS feed without the ability to do any of those actions really took me back to my childhood. If I use Paramount Plus to watch the next season of Survivor, I’ll have to run to the bathroom during commercial breaks (but my little brother won’t be around to yell, “It’s back!”). A colleague tells me they bring their phone with them whenever this happens, which is a far from ideal solution.
Paramount Plus review: TV shows
Paramount Plus has a fairly impressive library, stacked with titles from the parent company’s many brands. Cruising through the Shows hub, I see a lot of CBS procedurals, like NCIS, Criminal Minds and CSI. There’s also quite a lot of reality TV, including Survivor, Big Brother, Teen Mom and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
21 Paramount Plus shows disappeared in June 2023, including Inside Amy Schumer.
Star Trek gets its own sub-genre (as Star Wars and Marvel have theirs on Disney Plus), and fans can boldly go watch the Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as the Paramount Plus originals Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks and Prodigy.
Speaking of originals, Paramount Plus is really ramping up their production beyond Star Trek spinoffs. The Good Fight is a gem of long-standing, while an iCarly reboot, Real World reunion series and Stephen King’s The Stand have all found fans.
Of all the originals, 1883 has gotten the most buzz as the first spinoff of Paramount Network’s cable hit Yellowstone. Two more are on their way, 6666 and 1932. It is strange that Yellowstone itself is not streaming on the service; the drama is exclusive to Peacock due to a deal made years ago. I expect that when the term is over, Yellowstone will giddyup to Paramount Plus and become its anchor show.
Even more original shows are on the way, including video game adaptation Halo (which has already been renewed for season 2), Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and a Transformers animated series. A Knuckles series spinning out of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 movie will bring Idris Elba to Paramount Plus as well.
Paramount Plus review: Movies
So far, original content, shows are far outpacing movies. Paramount Plus is still lagging behind there, releasing a couple South Park specials, supernatural teen romance The In Between, and Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin.
The service has big plans, though. In the next few years, it will stream major Paramount movies, such as Mission: Impossible 7, A Quiet Place Part III and the A Quiet Place spinoff. , Other big movies coming to Paramount Plus after theaters include Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Babylon (starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie) and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from Seth Rogen.
Three new "character-driven" movies spotlighting SpongeBob SquarePants will debut on Paramount Plus, as well movies dedicated to TMNT villains. Paramount Plus will also get thereboot movie for MTV’s Teen Wolf.
Like Peacock and HBO Max, Paramount Plus also streams movies from its corporate back catalog and licenses others. While reviewing the service, I saw a wide variety of options like The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, The Avengers, Clue, Almost Famous, The French Connection, Arrival and Clue. Paramount Plus might have the most classic films I’ve seen on any service, in case you want to see Mary Pickford in 1926’s Sparrows.
Paramount Plus review: Live sports
Like Peacock, Paramount Plus is using sports to set itself apart in the streaming space. Netflix and Disney Plus may be giants but they do not have live sports. Paramount Plus does, including NFL, PGA golf and men’s college basketball. It’s also the home to a ton of soccer coverage, including UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Serie A and CONCACAF Qualifiers.
Some major events are included with the Essential Plan, like NFL on CBS. But other live sports require the Premium plan, such as The Masters, March Madness, SEC games, the PGA tour and Combate Global MMA.
The biggest drawback, once again, is that live means live in most cases. I can watch Champions League match replays, but not for the NFL. The latter only has clips and news coverage of the past season.
Paramount Plus review: Supported devices
Paramount Plus is available on most major devices, including:
Apple TV, iPhone and iPad
Android TV, phone and tablet
Xbox One, Series S and Series X
Xfinity Flex and X1
Cox Contour box
Yes, Paramount Plus is still not available on the PS5.
Paramount Plus review: Bottom line
An affordable price and a large, somewhat compelling catalog makes Paramount Plus a streaming service that I would subscribe to … occasionally. As this Paramount Plus review has demonstrated, it doesn't have a steady flow of buzzy originals that would convince me to sign up for more than a month or two at a time. At this stage, I can wait for a new season of The Good Fight, sign up and then cancel when it’s over. Rinse, repeat with the less-than-handful of other shows I watch on Paramount Plus.
The industry calls this “churn,” and smaller services like Paramount Plus are particularly susceptible to it. While it is ramping up its content offerings, in the here and now, the streamer is simply not super necessary to my daily viewing life. It is a great “nice to have,” though. And when the pipeline is pumping out more must-see originals, it’ll become a must-have.