A mountain of entertainment awaits the home viewer
As the streaming wars continue to heat up, ViacomCBS announced Tuesday it was ditching the CBS All Access name and rebranding as Paramount Plus, or Paramount + beginning in early 2021, with a dedicated website already launched.
The move to freshen up the streaming service comes as other big conglomerates have jumped into the game including HBO Max (AT&T/Warner Bros.), Peacock (NBCUniversal) and Disney in recent months. CBS All Access launched in 2014 with access to CBS shows, news (including CBSN and its local spinoffs), and classic TV from its large television library and later added a few originals including Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, The Good Fight, another new version of The Twilight Zone, and Tooning In The News, a (direct) rip-off of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.
But the launch came at a time when CBS split from Viacom a decade earlier as the network originally spun-off the company in 1971 due to the then-fin-syn rules being implemented. A few years after the rules expired, CBS and Viacom reunited in a balloyhooed September 1999 merger, only to split at the end of 2005 with CBS taking the broadcast TV and library properties leaving Viacom with everything else, including the cable networks and the Paramount film studio.
But after Les Moonves was booted off the CBS board, the wheels started in motion for a second CBS-Viacom reunion, thanks to CEO Shari Redstone as they watched Disney acquire 21st Century Fox and Comcast devoting more resources to NBCUniversal as viewers shifted more and more to streaming. With Viacom and CBS once again hooking up, CBS All Access now have access (no pun intended) to the Paramount film library, and programming from MTV’s networks.
Also standing out from other streamers is the ability to stream your local CBS affiliate in most markets and live CBS programming, such as the NFL. NBC’s new Peacock streamer does not offer those options as the lack of affiliate streaming (and the shared revenue that goes with it) and may be one of the reasons why most NBC affiliates refused to air the 30 Rock reunion special as it was nothing more than a glorified infomercial for the streaming service.
The decision to rebrand realigns ViacomCBS with streaming services with the Paramount Plus name in other countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. CBS All Access meanwhile, is available in Canada and Australia. More countries are expected to come on board.
The name change wasn’t exactly greeted with a lot of positive vibes. The Verge criticized the rebrand, saying it wasn’t original (Paramount Plus was also recently used as a movie package sold by Trifecta Entertainment to TV stations, since renamed Paramount Platinum.) Others noted the Paramount brand doesn’t connect with a whole lot of young consumers given since the 2005 split, the name was more or less buried under the Viacom umbrella as virtually all of the broadcast television content went to the CBS side with the network preferring to use its own brand. This was evident when the longtime Paramount Domestic Television name was dropped from its syndication arm in 2006 in favor of “CBS Paramount Television” and in 2007 became CBS Television Distribution while its production unit was renamed CBS Television Studios.
However, others pointed it was the CBS brand name that didn’t resonate with viewers given CBS programming tends to skew older.
As for new programming with the rebrand, five new shows were trotted out: The Offer, about the making of The Godfather; a new version of VH1’s Behind The Music; a true crime docuseries tied to CBS’ long running crime drama Criminal Minds; a spy drama from Yellowstone producer Taylor Sheridan called Lionness; and another reboot of The Game, a former CW sitcom revived on BET in 2011 (Ironically, The CW episodes wound up on Netflix.)
Pricing remains the same at $6 a month with ads and $10 without (both tiers does have ads for live programming.)
One of the quirks is not all CBS or Viacom programming is going to appear on the service – for example, Paramount Network sold the streaming rights to hit Yellowstone to Peacock while HBO Max wound up with South Park – Comedy Central’s highest-rated and long-running show. Meanwhile, CBS Television Distribution’s Cheers, the classic 1982-93 NBC sitcom produced by Paramount Television not only appears on CBS All Access but also on Peacock. And of course, the aforementioned Game and several Black-oriented sitcoms’ deal with Netflix.
In addition, ViacomCBS owns free internet TV streamer Pluto and among tons of channels devoted to CBS and Viacom content, one includes carries a Paramount Movie Channel.