Paramount+ Streaming Service Review
As part of IGN’s State of Streaming event, we’re taking a fresh look at the major streaming services and what they offer subscribers in 2022. You can check out our initial thoughts on the Paramount+ streaming platform as of 2021, and see what’s changed (for better or worse) in this updated review.
Paramount+ began its life as CBS All-Access back in 2014, offering a way for cord-cutters to watch their favorite CBS and Viacom-owned shows as well as live sports. Fast-forward eight years and the service not only got a new name, but began understanding that exclusive content and original programming are king in a world dominated by the likes of Netflix and Disney+.
In the year since our initial review, Paramount+ has continued to bolster its back catalog, double-down on exclusive TV shows, movies, and reboots, as well as fold the entire Showtime catalog into the app (for an additional fee), allowing you to watch everything in one place. With many rival streaming services like Disney+ and Hulu raising prices soon, Netflix exploring ways to incorporate ads, and HBO Max’s future becoming worryingly uncertain following its recent merger, Paramount+ seems like a better deal than it’s ever been this year.
Paramount+’s TV Shows and Movies
Paramount+ offers a large library that spans literal decades of classic content from across the massive Paramount Global family including CBS, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, the Smithsonian Channel, as well as its own original content exclusive to the streaming service. It casts a wide net with its content, appealing to everyone from young children to adults, while offering plenty to dip into for just about every popular genre. Whether you enjoy sitcoms, raunchy reality shows, sports, documentaries, movies, or a good drama, there’s definitely something for everyone here.
Arguably the biggest draw to the service is its ever-expanding selection of Paramount+ Originals that include the recent Halo TV series, the critically acclaimed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the still-worth-watching Star Trek: Discovery, the not-so-acclaimed Star Trek: Picard, the Yellowstone prequel 1883, the hilarious eSports mocumentary Players (from the makers of Netflix’s American Vandal), and many more. Additionally, you can catch popular sports like the NFL and UEFA Champions League whenever their games air on CBS.
Despite some popular originals, Paramount+ is still missing its “must-watch” series to really drive subscriptions.“
Despite some popular originals thus far, Paramount+ is still missing its “must-watch” series to really drive subscriptions. Halo was fairly popular but didn’t necessarily set the world on fire, and the Star Trek shows have been middling until the release of Strange New Worlds earlier this year, which we deemed a Masterpiece for “managing to recapture the joy of classic Trek.” But taking a step back, the service is still in its infancy and has a veritable treasure trove of valuable classic shows and movies to pull from. The next couple of years are going to be important if it hopes to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+.
For fans of animated adult comedies, Paramount+ is also the exclusive home of the recent and upcoming South Park movies. Since the massive deal was struck with Paramount last year, there have already been four South Park specials, with a whopping 10 more planned between now and 2027. However, if you’re looking to catch up on the series itself, you’ll have to pop over to HBO Max (which has exclusive streaming rights until at least 2025). In addition to South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head also made a return recently, with creator Mike Judge back at the helm for at least two new seasons. There’s also the Star Trek: Lower Decks series, which offers a more comedic take on the otherwise serious science fiction universe.
If competitive reality shows are more your speed, Paramount+ (via CBS) is home to current and former seasons of Survivor, Big Brother, and the Amazing Race, as well as longtime cop dramas such as the various flavors of CSI and NCIS. You’ll also find plenty of family sitcoms and late-night talk shows to satisfy your scripted comedy urges. (However, you currently have to wait until the next day to see new episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Paramount+, even though the monologues are posted to YouTube that same evening.)
And speaking of comedy, Comedy Central houses a massive backlog of classics such as Tosh.0, Chappelle’s Show, Key & Peele, Workaholics, Reno 911!, Nathan For You, and dozens and dozens of shorts from popular stand-up comedians over the past few decades. Sure, you can find many of these shows on other streaming services (Netflix and HBO both have large collections of standup), but having all of these in one place is always nice.
If you grew up in the ‘90s (like myself), then browsing through the Nickelodeon hub is going to be a massive nostalgia trip. I was pleased to find that the golden era of Nicktoons is fully intact here – including Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, The Angry Beavers, Doug, Rocket Power, and of course, SpongeBob Squarepants. Even better, most of the iconic live-action series are available to rewatch in all their glory, too, including Are You Afraid of the Dark, All That, Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare, and so many more. I was even surprised to find deep cuts, such as Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts, made the roster. I was also delighted to find modern reboots of Rugrats (featuring the original voice cast) and All That (with Kel Mitchell reprising his role as Ed from Good Burger).
Paramount+’s live TV section is similar to what you’d find over on a service like Peacock, with local CBS networks available to Premium subscribers, as well as a couple dozen curated channels that air endless reruns of popular shows from across the various networks. You’ll find catch-all channels such as Crime & Justice, Animation Favorites, ‘80s Sitcoms, and Nostalgic Hits, just to name a few. Additionally, you’ll find stations dedicated to specific shows like Survivor, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Star Trek that air nothing but the listed show. Overall, it’s a nice addition to the service that bridges the gap a bit for cord-cutters who still want the option to browse a guide and find something to jump into without thinking too much.
Paramount+ also has a substantial selection of new and classic movies available.“
Aside from the massive catalog of shows and live TV, Paramount+ also has a substantial selection of new and classic movies available. Recent hits such as Sonic the Hedgehog films, A Quiet Place I & II, Scream, Jackass Forever, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run are all included in the basic subscription. Additionally, Paramount has a huge back catalog of classic films from the past 100+ years across every genre including the Mission: Impossible series, the Scream series, The Godfather, some (but not all) Transformers movies, and much more. If you purchase the bundle that includes Showtime you’ll have plenty more to choose from here, but the default is not a terrible selection by any means.
That being said, of Paramount Pictures’ top 25 highest-grossing films of all time, only eight are present on Paramount+. Many of the heavy hitters such as Titanic, Forrest Gump, most of the DreamWorks catalog, and of course, Iron Man 1, 2, and 3 are notably absent here. Still, with a constant flow of big-budget films continually being added to the impressive back catalog, Paramount+’s movie selection is definitely a substantial part of the overall subscription.
Paramount+’s User Interface
Whether you’re watching at home via your smart TV or streaming box such as Apple TV or Roku, streaming on your phone or tablet, or watching through the website, the Paramount+ user interface is intuitive, engaging, and mostly consistent across all experiences. If you’ve browsed other streaming services, this should all be very familiar: it’s a series of rows and menus that highlight featured shows and let you search to find the specific show or movie – or a genre – you’re looking for.
Paramount+ supports up to six users with their own individual viewing profile, as well as a Kid’s mode for younger viewers that are limited to age-appropriate content, and support for up to three simultaneous streams. Upon launching the app, you’ll be greeted with the home section that advertises the latest shows and movies, with your recently viewed content and saved list just below so you can easily jump right back into whatever you were watching. Further down, you’ll find a row of branded hubs that include CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel. Within each one, you’ll find curated rows of content, as well as a horizontal A-Z list at the bottom of each page.
The Paramount+ user interface is intuitive, engaging, and mostly consistent across all experiences.“
Depending on where you’re watching, you’ll find a clear navigation menu across the top or lefthand side that includes quick access to Home, Shows, Movies, Live TV, Sports, News, My List, Search, and Showtime (if you’ve subscribed to the bundle, of course). Within the Shows and Movies sections, you’ll find the most popular content presented initially, but you can browse between different genres such as Originals, Comedies, Sci-Fi, Drama, and more, if you’re looking for something specific.
The downside to browsing specific genres is – besides a very small “Trending” section – everything is dumped on you alphabetically with no effort to try and curate some of the content any further. This is fine if you know what you’re looking for, but at that point, it’s just easier to search manually instead of browsing a never-ending stream of box art. If you do make it to the bottom of the list, there’s no easy way to jump back to the top, either. This isn’t so bad on mobile devices where you can quickly swipe back through with your finger, but it’s especially clunky if you’re navigating with a remote.).
Most of Paramount+’s Originals and movies are available in 4K for Premium subscribers, with some featuring support for Dolby Vision and HDR if you have compatible hardware such as Apple TV 4K, Amazon Fire TV 4K devices, Roku 4K devices, and Android TV. Additionally, Dolby Atmos is supported when viewing on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV devices. Older movies and shows haven’t been remastered in 4K, unfortunately, so it’s generally limited to newer content. When viewing a TV show or movie, it will include a “4K” badge, as well as Dolby and HDR options, if available.
While the majority of the user interface is clean and easy to understand, finding some content wasn’t as straightforward. For instance, inside the Nickelodeon-branded hub, there is a curated row of content labeled “Nick Rewind” that features a number of shows from my childhood neatly displayed. However, those same shows were missing from the horizontal A-Z row at the bottom of the page, which was a bit odd. Furthermore, there are shows and movies not featured at all in the hub, such as Legends of the Hidden Temple, which required I either dig through the entire list of available shows on Paramount+ to see if it’s available (no, thank you), or know exactly what to search for. The magic of streaming services is often finding content you didn’t know was available digitally (or even forgot about over the years) and being able to jump right in, and adding extra hoops to jump through or outright not displaying all available content in the branded hubs feels like a big miss and something that should really be fixed.
Paramount+ is one of the more affordable streaming services today, with an ad-supported Essential tier starting at $4.99 per month, or $49.99 annually. If you spring for the Premium tier it will remove ads, upgrade available content to 4K resolution, and allow you to stream your live local CBS stations for $9.99 per month, or $99.99 for the year. Additionally, Premium subscribers have the ability to download and watch content offline, as well as tune in to live events such as the NCAA Tournament, The Masters, and The Grammys.
You can also bundle Showtime with the Essential or Premium tier to save a bit on both services and have access to even more movies and TV shows, such as Dexter: New Blood, Yellowjackets, and more. Adding Showtime to the Essential plan brings the cost up to $11.99/month or $119.99/year, while the Premium plan with Showtime is $14.99/month or $149.99/year. However, there are typically promotions available that can save you even more on the bundle, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out if you’re looking to subscribe. Students can also get 25% off subscriptions with an eligible .edu email address.
Overall, if you’re not bothered by ads and don’t care about watching your local CBS stations, then $4.99 per month is hard to beat considering the sheer amount of content available on the service.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matthew Adler