Launches is not quite the right way to describe what we’ll get on the 4th, as it’s CBS All Access expanding to become a more of a competitor in the streaming wars, with Viacom/CBS rebranding All Acces to be Paramount+
Live sports, breaking news, and a mountain of entertainment. CBS All Access is becoming Paramount+ on March 4th. pic.twitter.com/nLdA9pgaUP— CBS All Access (@CBSAllAccess) January 19, 2021
CBS AllAccess launched all the way back in 2014, but didn’t start picking up steam until they launched some original programming, specifically their revival of the Star Trek franchise on TV with Discovery in 2017 and Jordan Peele’s approach to Twilight Zone in 2019. With the re-merge of Viacom and CBS in 2019, as well as all the major studios gunning for a piece of the streaming pie, it was only a matter of time before they pushed to have the entire catalogue under one branded umbrella.
And as glad as I am they are doing this, as there is a lot of content to be enjoyed under this banner, really Viacom/CBS? Paramount+? Like… Disney already had “+”. Technically Hulu had it when they had their first premium iteration, but since Hulu and Disney+ are both Disney platforms (Comcast/NBC/Universal still has like a 30% non-controlling stake, FTR). But Disney+, and Discovery+ just launched on January 4th.
My hope is that we’ll see them really fill out some of their problem areas. Currently, CBS AllAccess has a smattering of various back catalogues, and some of the shows they have are missing episodes. A lot of episodes. By focusing on a robust content library, I think they can really be a modest player in the streaming landscape to set themselves apart. And they do have a very key segment they can lock in with a full library: 90s/early 00s nostalgia.
Late Gen-X, Millennials, and early Gen-Z. Specifically with their Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and MTV properties. If they can build that out, they can get some of the younger crowd to their platform. They’ll get the older crowd with their deep well of NCIS/CSI/JAG shows. But tap into that 90s nostalgia. The 2020 documentary The Orange Years already got that ball rolling for you.
What gives me pause are three big properties Paramount has that are showing up elsewhere right when it would be beneficial to have them in their arsenal. I won’t pretend to know the intricate ins and outs of licensing and distribution and all that. But cult fave TV show Freaks & Geeks is going to Hulu, with its music rights intact, which is a huge win for fans of the Paramount produced show. That show did air on NBC, so maybe it’s a distribution issue, and with the music rights in play, maybe Hulu was the best option. I don’t know. But that would have been a good selling point for Paramount+.
As would the delayed theatrical releases of Coming 2 America, the long gestating sequel to the 1988 Eddie Murphy classic, and Without Remorse, the Jack Ryan-adjacent Tom Clancy film starring Michael B. Jordan. Both would have been solid theatrical successes had 2020 not happened, and both would have been good launch content for Paramount+, had they not auctioned the distribution rights to Amazon Prime.
Freaks & Geeks heads to Hulu on January 25th, while Coming 2 America and Without Remorse head to Amazon in February. Again, I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of distribution rights and streaming rights, and there are probably bigger things at play preventing those properties heading to Paramount+, but it just feels like missed opportunities for Viacom/CBS to launch Paramount+, and doesn’t fill me with much confidence on their library going forward.
I’m already a subscriber to CBS AllAccess, so not much will change for me. I do it to support Star Trek. I will sing its praises if they invest in and fill out their Nick, MTV and Comedy Central libraries. That and Paramount Picture’s 110 year history of cinematic excellence that includes The Godfather films, Forrest Gump, Titanic (with Fox, so Disney has that, too), Marx Brothers films, Hope/Crosby’s Road To… series, (some of) Friday the 13th. If they highlight that and their TV properties, they can be a contender, following a similar path to success Warner has with HBOMax. Paramount even has Showtime, so a well known, well respected premium cable brand is in their back pocket, too.
Viacom/CBS may not have the most exciting launch of a branded streaming platform, as they’ve just completely dragged their feet to the finish line. But they do have an impressive catalogue if they can just make effective use of it. As an elder millennial, I’m anxiously awaiting the chance to deep dive 90s era Nickelodeon. Been far too long without Hey Dude or Salute Your Shorts in my life.