Hands On: Paramount+ Streaming Service

Paramount+ launched last week, absorbing and adding to the CBS All Access app. The newly rebranded service adds content from several channels brought to CBS following the 2019 merger of CBS and Viacom. ViacomCBS Streaming has three streaming services available—Showtime, the free Pluto TV service, and now, the aggregated Paramount+ with a library of classic and current TV shows, movies, news, sports, and more. 

Tom Ryan, President and CEO of ViacomCBS streaming said in a recent investor call, "Built from an iconic portfolio of beloved consumer brands and iconic franchises like SpongeBob and Star Trek, Paramount+ is a compelling and differentiated streaming offering for all audiences."

Paramount+ may not have as much original content as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, but it's easy to find some of my favorite movies and TV shows as well as new CBS shows I watch regularly. However, using the app was less than ideal.

Using the App
With the additional content, there are many titles to browse through to find what you want to watch. Paramount+ has some awkward user interfaces. It is easy to get to each of the new Viacom-owned channels— BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon (and TV Land), and the Smithsonian Channel—as there is a row with icons that lead you to a submenu for the content. Once in the channel submenu, there are only two rows. The first row displays what shows are trending on that channel. The second row is a horizontal scroll of the shows A to Z. Other apps will show a limited number of titles in its initial carousel and take you to a page grid at the end of the row. The horizontal carousels in these menus are the only way to browse through titles alphabetically.

The other way to reach the channels is by clicking on "Brands" in the side submenu, where you can also choose to view Movies, Shows (TV shows), Live TV, or News. The Movies and Shows submenus use a full-page grid display with options to view different categories/genres. There is a category to view Movies "A-Z" and "All Shows" in the Shows menu. 

The Shows submenu displays TV shows from all channels. There are fifteen Show genres from Originals to Dramas, Comedies, Reality, Daytime, Primetime, Late Night, Star Trek, Classics, Specials, and more. Specials include The Late Show Carpool Karaoke and the Grammy's.  

In the “Classics” menu you’ll find Beverly Hills 90210, Brady Bunch, Cheers, Family Ties, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, Gun Smoke, Love Boat, the original Mission Impossible, Taxi, Twin Peaks and the original Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Odd Couple and more. The Reality category includes current shows Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race as well as seasons 1 to 4 and 12 to 32 of Real World along with the new Paramount+ original The Real World Homecoming, New York that brings together the original seven strangers that started the series and the reality show genre. 

Star Trek has its own category. There are originals like the newest version of Star Trek-- Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek Short Treks, which is a compilation of eight-minute shorts around the key Star Trek characters and themes. And all of the other series from the original to The Next Generation to Picard and animated series.

As Nickelodeon is one of the Viacom brands, there is an extensive selection of kids' titles in the Kids category to please not only children but also nostalgic adults. Ren and Stimpy, Spongebob, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, Blues Clues, Bob the Builder, Paddington Bear, Doug, Dora the Explorer, Hey Arnold, Keenan and Kel, and all nine seasons of Rugrats are available along with new Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. titles.

Under the Originals category, thirty titles are displayed, including Jordan Peele's reboot of The Twilight Zone and the timely remake of Steven King's 1978 novel about a pandemic, The Stand. Along with popular scripted shows like four seasons of The Good Fight, there is The Thomas John Experience where a medium brings messages from the great beyond for ordinary people he encounters around the U.S. Steven Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News is an animated news show that satirizes the weekly news as cartoon anchors interview real-life newsmakers. 

Paramount+ plans to add another thirty-six originals shows. These range from MTV specials about musicians to Comedy Central spinoffs like Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon to a CG reboot of Rugrats. Also in development are several scripted shows, including The Man Who Fell to Earth. Inspired by the novel and film starring David Bowie, the series follows an alien who must confront his past to determine Earth's future.

In all, there are 30,000 TV episodes. The "All Shows" grid displays about 100 plus titles. It's good to have a fast streaming device for quick browsing. With all the content to look through, the app doesn't have a Watchlist or My Stuff where you can add titles you want to access quickly to watch next. The lack of a personal collection is a huge miss that will hopefully be corrected in future updates. 

Once it became Paramount+, many of the popular, well known, and iconic movie titles from Paramount studios were added to app. Classic Paramount films include the collections of Indiana Jones, The Godfather, Mission Impossible, Crocodile Dundee, Elvis movies,The Road to Perdition, Rat Race, Franco Zefirrelli’s Romeo and Juliet, and more. Beginning late spring, the service will add popular franchises and features including James Bond and Hunger Games films, The Addams Family and The Avengers, among many others in a deal that will grow the service’s film library to over 2,500 titles.

Paramount also announced that new theatrical films will be available to stream a mere 45 days after they premiere in theaters. Upcoming titles include A Quiet Place Part II, PAW PATROL: The Movie and Mission: Impossible 7. In 2022, several titles will first debut on EPIX then be available on Paramount+ including Snake Eyes, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Top Gun: Maverick, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Transformers 7, Dungeons and Dragons, Scream and more. This year Paramount+ will grow to over 2500 movies. 

Live TV and Sports
Paramount+ has a well-rounded variety of content that includes live TV and sports. A live CBS channel is accessible to all subscribers. Commercial-free subscribers can watch their live local CBS station. Most shows that have aired recently on CBS become available on Paramount+ within a day or two. While you can watch whatever is airing, not all CBS broadcast shows can be streamed on-demand from Paramount+. However, all broadcast shows will be available on the CBS stand-alone app authenticated through your TV provider. 

One example is the recent Oprah Interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Due to licensing rights, you can stream it on demand for the next thirty days on the CBS app. It won't be available on Paramount+. 

Sports fans can enjoy exclusive sports programming like college basketball March Madness. NFL, Masters, PGA TOUR, NCAA, SEC, The PGA Championship, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, National Women's Soccer League, and more.

The Details
Some of the Smithsonian Channel nature shows, along with some of the originals—The Good Fight, The Twilight Zone, are available in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR. Future originals will be offered in 4K HDR. Audio is limited to Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound at this time. 

Like CBS All Access, there are two subscription tiers of Paramount+. The ad-supported tier currently runs $6 per month but will drop to $5 in June. The commercial-free tier is $10 per month and includes the live feed of your local CBS channel.  

Paramount+ allows up to six profiles streaming to three devices at the same time, with most major streaming hardware supported at launch. Users can download up to 25 shows to mobile devices.

I've subscribed to CBS All Access as current CBS shows can't be streamed on Hulu. The movies, classic shows, and channels are an added bonus. While it may not replace your other streaming subscriptions, Paramount+ can be part of a complete cord-cutting streaming solution.

Billy's picture

I am tired of the companies splitting away from Netflix, and soon the bills will be horrible in total. What I want is what we used to fream about back in the 60s and 70s, and not a 200 channel TV spread. I want to be able to play anything that has ever been on TV or a movie, or on the radio, when ever I want to see it, commercial free. If I awake at 3AM and have a hunkering to see the 6th episode of My Mother the Car, BAM! There it is. What would be the monthly cost of that? How much would I be willing to pay? 50, 60 bucks a month? That would be a great deal. Of course, an easy intuitive interface would be needed. The way it is now, you could have a dozen streaming services and they are not going to be cross refrenced.

Michaela's picture

My strategy for subscribing to Paramount+ is the same as it was with CBS All Access. I'll wait until The Good Fight returns with the majority of its new episodes online before committing to a month or two of renewal. A reboot of Frasier would also hasten my return. And since my cable package doesn't include Comedy Central, access to The Daily Show would be another plus.

brnsgrbr's picture

While the author stated that 5.1 audio, in practice, very few shows offer anything but stereo. Absolutely, unacceptable in 2021. Of course, if any archival shows were never produced that way it is understandable. But the fact is shows like Star Trek discovery, with all of its wonderful special effects, set design, and other high end features that it does deliver on, suffers dramatically as a result. I often find myself swearing, especially during the action scenes.

I remember, how much I'd loved watching the Next Generation in Dolby Pro-Logic back in the day. The fact that they cannot even match that 30 or so years later..... ugh need I say more?

Qwerter12's picture

I enjoy Paramount Plus for its fantastic array of movies and series. Whether it's a new release or an old favorite, there's always something to watch. The prices are reasonable, and I can even enjoy some shows for free with ads. One of my favorite features is the ability to download shows and watch them offline, ensuring entertainment even without internet access. For those interested, reading paramount plus reviews confirms high subscriber satisfaction with the streaming service.