Until recently I was not the biggest fan of CBS All Access. As a smaller service with pretty niche offerings, I didn’t see a ton of appeal when stacked against the many, many other options out there. But I’ve got a confession: This is a streaming service you should absolutely consider subscribing to as your go-to, do-it-all entertainment hub—and yes, maybe even to replace your Netflix subscription. Hear me out.
When CBS All Access launched approximately 500 years ago, in 2014, it’s lineup was, uh, not especially great. Sure, it was fine for a CBS die-hard or someone hoping to get on-demand or next-day access to newly aired episodes of its shows. But that was pretty much it.
That’s no longer the case.
CBS’s scrappy streaming service has been steadily beefing up its content offerings, bringing together the best parts of some rival services, including live TV coverage, quality original content, and a catalog of films and series from franchises like Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and The Good Wife/Fight. It even has sports coverage! And most recently, the streaming service packed its library with more than 100 films from Paramount, including titles like The Godfather, Star Trek: First Contact, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And according to the company, the service is getting even more premium titles in the coming months.
“Expanding CBS All Access’ library of films with these iconic titles from Paramount Pictures is just one of the many ways we’re integrating the phenomenal catalog of IP available to us within the ViacomCBS family,” Julie McNamara, Executive Vice President & Head of Programming, CBS All Access, said in a statement. “The service is on a growth trajectory with two record-breaking months in March and April, and we look forward to bringing even more premium content and value to our subscribers in the coming months.”
During an earnings statement this week, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said the company was “accelerating our plans for an expanded subscription service,” with “major changes” that build on CBS All Access arriving over the summer. Bakish added that the company will be expanding not only on its on-demand content but its originals as well—which is promising given its current roster of stellar original content, including Star Trek: Picard and Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone (which will see its season 2 premiere over the summer).
In terms of on-demand, though, CBS has a lot of material to pull from following the Viacom and CBS super-merger last year, which brought CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and Paramount under a single roof. And ViacomCBS execs evidently aren’t planning to squander those brands assets, either. Citing sources familiar with the matter, CNBC reported back in February that they were weighing a service that combined CBS All Access with all of those aforementioned brands, including a possible premium version of the service that included Showtime, and potentially for under $10 per month.
What this means, given its cornucopia of content assets, is that CBS All Access could be gearing up to better compete with a service like Hulu, which also offers a nice mix of live TV, originals, and on-demand content. The difference is the Hulu has gotten pretty pricey as of late, and Bakish stressed this week that CBS All Access wanted to “be the service that gives [viewers] what they want, how they want it, all in one place and at a great value.”
“This will be a compelling foundational service for some and differentiated complement for others,” he said. He’s right! Right now, Netflix is in a strange place with its originals where they teeter between very good and hot garbage. The Apple TV+ slate is not only incredibly thin but also pretty underwhelming. Quibi is a service that no one seems to want right now while so many of us are stuck at home with access to larger screens. Disney+ is for families. Hulu is quite good—particularly for its a la carte and bundling options—but again, pretty pricey. And other services tend to focus on doing one thing well, be it live TV or on-demand or sports.
CBS All Access, however, is a great grown-up service that does a lot of everything quite well. This is a service for someone who wants to watch good on demand shows and movies, get a dash of live TV coverage, and maybe watch an occasional football game (when those return, of course). And even if it’s not the lone service you subscribe to, it’s cheap enough—$6 per month with ads and $10 per month without—that you can afford to bundle it with, say, an HBO Max subscription or Disney+. For now, at least, CBS All Access is the service the others should be emulating, and one you should think about subscribing to.