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The best streaming services are all competing for your money. You may have heard about CBS All Access when the new Star Trek show, available only on that service, first launched. The app is a unique approach to streaming, and we’re reviewing CBS All Access, the service, to see just how good it is.
Streaming services like HBO, Showtime, Netflix and Hulu are pretty easy to understand: They offer a wide variety of content, movies and shows for you to keep up on the latest entertainment, some created by them and some licensed from other networks, etc.
CBS All Access is part of a new crop of streaming services that forgo this model and offer only their own content (some when they launch some when it doesn’t) – in this case, the CBS shows that the network wants to stream. But how does this approach work, specifically with CBS content? Is it a worthwhile service to add to your streaming list, or is not worth the monthly cost?
We took a look. Here’s what we found.
Naturally, content is limited to CBS, which may be all you need to make up your mind. It wasn’t for us, hence our review. But how that content is limited is also important, so we’re going to review and evaluate the main categories of shows available on All Access.
Current CBS All Access Shows: CBS offers a number of its current network TV shows, including past seasons, to search through and watch as you want. This is a nice feature for getting caught up on shows you like, but it’s also very hit or miss – you may not be getting everything you want.
For example there’s only 24 Big Bang Theory episodes out of the many seasons of the show, making it harder to catch up or introduce friends.
Some popular shows, like 2 Broke Girls, aren’t on the service at all. These are weird, disappointing choices that make it seem like CBS doesn’t really want people watching All Access if they could be forced to watch network TV instead. It’s also important to note
Past CBS Shows: You can also find a number of older CBS classic shows and shows that were canceled some time ago, which makes All Access a nice place to find your old favorites. That includes Cheers, 90210, a couple of the CSIs, Frasier, and the classic Hawaii Five-O. That’s cool, and adds a lot more value to the service.
However, here too episodes are very unreliable. You may get all the episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Jericho, but only a portion of the 90201 or Brady Bunch episodes, for reasons that just aren’t clear.
Original content: In other words, content that’s only available on All Access, and not even available on the traditional CBS TV network. That means Star Trek Discovery for most people. CBS does have other original content, including The Good Fight, Strange Angel, and No Activity. You probably haven’t heard about those, because no one really cares about them yet. Star Trek is the main selling point here for now.
CBS is working to include other shows like a new The Twilight Zone which might make their original content more worthwhile in the future.
You can watch live tv! Self-explanatory. Limited only to CBS, live tv of course.
CBS also offers a collection of movies available to watch as well. It’s pretty random – you get Pink Panther, Bullet Proof Monk, and Hotel Rwanda, all in the same section. There’s only 20 or so of these movies, and they aren’t really a deciding factor for the service unless CBS really, really expands the list in coming years.
This refers to all the big events that CBS will cover, like the Grammys. You typically get the ability to watch these events live or catch on them afterward if you were busy.
CBS All Access offers a basic two-tier pricing structure.
Here we see one of the biggest problems with these single-network streaming services: they just don’t have enough content to be worth the price of admission.
During our review, we also discovered that for an equivalent price, you can get access to exponentially more shows in a wide variety of styles and target audiences, all without commercials – or with limited commercials, in Hulu’s case. And, frankly, access to shows like Game of Thrones or Stranger Things that are a bigger part of the zeitgeist than anything on CBS (depending on your feelings about Big Bang Theory).
That makes it hard to justify paying this much for only shows from CBS. If you are a diehard CBS fan, then you’ve probably seen a lot of their past content, so historical shows won’t be much good for you. That means you’re primarily paying to catch up on current shows, which is a tough sell. If you don’t much care for CBS and only want to watch a show or two on All Access, it’s an even worse deal.
This is why All Access membership goes up for events like The Grammys. People are willing to pay a one-time fee to see a big event in real time (similar to Boxing/MMA views), but then they just cancel afterward (or they just get the 1-week trial and then cancel). This doesn’t say good things about service longevity.
Finally, check out the pricing for comparative services for on demand service to see where this $6/$10 pricing falls:
Well, how big of a Star Trek fan are you? On a serious note, content does have different values based on user loyalty. If you are a HUGE Star Trek fan and demand to see the new show ASAP, then paying $6 per month for the ability may not seem like a huge leap for you. The same is true if you’ve been longing to watch old CBS shows from several decades ago and can’t find a good DVD set anywhere.
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However, if you don’t have this loyalty for any CBS All Access original content, we can’t really recommend buying this service. It doesn’t offer much, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to offer more in the future.
Plus – and this is particularly damning – networks like Fox, ABC, NBC, and The CW offer similar streaming apps with collections of current and past shows (including original content), somewhat limited based on your subscription choices but all for free. Why is CBS charging a fee? It certainly doesn’t look good in comparison.
On that note, keep in mind that you don’t have to go directly to CBS to get All Access. In other words, other services can bundle CBS All Access into the content you already stream from them, on their platform.
If you love Roku, you can find CBS All Access Roku there. If you’re a big Amazon Prime fan, you can buy it through Amazon Prime and watch the content there. The pricing remains the same, but you don’t have to add another app if you don’t want to.