Services & Software

Paramount Plus Review: A Nostalgic Streaming Service That Can't Beat Netflix

A low price and tons of content, including Star Trek, 1883 and iCarly, cater to fans, but other services offer more new, original TV and movies.

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Paramount Plus is a mashup of streaming services past and present. Like Netflix, it has a wide back catalog of familiar shows to binge, a string of originals and reality shows. Like Hulu, you can choose from ad-supported or more expensive ad-free plans. Like Peacock, there's a live TV component. Like Disney Plus, you'll find a lot of content for kids, in this case from Nickelodeon. And like HBO Max you'll get major movie releases, although they'll appear shortly after their theatrical premiere, not at the same time. All of this should add up to an exciting service with a lot to offer -- especially for the low $5 entry price -- but ends up feeling like parts of all the ones you already have, without adding much that's new.

7.2

Paramount Plus

Like

  • Wide catalog of familiar shows and movies
  • Strong stable of kids' content from Nickelodeon
  • Will stream some major movies soon after theater release

Don't Like

  • Outside of Star Trek, Evil and 1883, not many must-see properties
  • Most compelling originals and movies are on the way
  • Little 4K HDR content

By the numbers, Paramount Plus has a ton of content -- 30,000 episodes of TV and 2,500 movies, plus 36 original series that dropped in 201. Yellowstone spinoff 1883 is already a major hit, and it's backed up by audience favorites SEAL Team and Evil. Upcoming shows include Yellowstone spinoff 1932, a new Star Trek series and another show based on Halo

Parents can assure their kids that more SpongeBob, Blue's Clues, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Monster High content is on the horizon, and new movies like Mission: Impossible 7 will be arriving 45 days after theaters. This past February, Paramount announced that it will merge Showtime content with the Paramount Plus app in summer 2022. That will bring even more originals and movies to viewers. 

Until those additions land on Paramount Plus, however, its main value lies in nostalgia. You can watch just about every old Nickelodeon show, including All That, Comedy Central standup specials and popular series ranging from Frasier and Cheers to SpongeBob SquarePants and Young Sheldon. And, of course, you get existing originals like Star Trek Discovery and The Good Fight, as well as the live feed of your local CBS station if you spring for the $10-per-month ad-free option. 

On the other hand, many shows you might expect, including the Paramount Network hit Yellowstone (it's on Peacock), CBS staples The Big Bang Theory (HBO Max) and Two and a Half Men (Peacock again) are not available on Paramount Plus. It's the case with South Park, too, but the streaming service will soon bring it back to its home base. Blame licensing.

If you're already a fan of any of the CBS or Viacom shows that are available -- or you're just looking to change up your streaming options after a year of binge-watching -- the Paramount Plus $5-a-month plan is not a bad option. But if you're looking to cut back on your streaming services, it isn't a must-have on the same level as Hulu, for example, which costs nearly the same and has much more variety and original programming.

Select streaming services, compared


Paramount Plus Netflix Hulu Disney Plus HBO Max Peacock
Monthly price Basic $5 with ads, ad-free for $10 Starts at $10 Basic $7 with ads, ad-free Premium for $13, Live TV for $70 $8 $10 with ads, $15 ad-free Basic free with ads, ad-free for $5
Ads Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Availability Now Now Now Now Now Now
Top titles Star Trek, 1883, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Godfather trilogy Ozark, Squid Game, Stranger Things, Lucifer, Tiger King Handmaid's Tale, How I Met Your Father, PEN15, The Great The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Encanto, Toy Story, The Simpsons Game of Thrones, Friends, The White Lotus, Rick and Morty, Sesame Street The Office, Bel-Air, Parks and Recreation, early access to Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Mobile downloads Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
4K HDR available Yes Yes (on Premium plan) Yes Yes Yes No
Number of streams: 3 1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium) 2 (Unlimited with Live TV $10 add-on) 4 3 3
042-paramount-plus-launch-3-4-2021

Star Trek is one of the originals that drew many fans to Paramount Plus's predecessor, CBS All Access. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What is Paramount Plus?

Paramount Plus is a subscription streaming service that in spring 2021, replacing CBS All Access, CBS's former streaming platform that started in 2014. On Paramount Plus, you'll find live news and sports as well as on-demand shows and movies, including originals, leaning on parent company Paramount Global brands like CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Paramount Network, plus the Paramount Pictures movie studio. There are also more than one dozen live channels that stream curated content 24/7.

Paramount Plus costs $10 a month for the ad-free version, or $5 a month with ads but without access to your local CBS stations. For that, you'll need to subscribe to the $10-a-month plan. The service is available in the US, Canada and 18 Latin American countries. 

018-paramount-plus-launch-3-4-2021

You'll find a mixture of shows and movies on Paramount Plus, along with live sports and news from CBS affiliate stations.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Streaming now: Familiar franchises and originals

Anecdotally, most people I know seem to have signed up for the service for two reasons: Star Trek or The Good Fight. With the addition of Yellowstone prequel 1883, Evil and the iCarly reboot, they're among the most popular originals exclusive to Paramount Plus.

At launch, there were 20 exclusive originals -- far more than the nine titles available at Apple TV's start. Most are from familiar properties that first appeared on CBS All Access, including Jordan Peele's reboot of The Twilight Zone and The Stand. The full Star Trek catalog, including every show in the various series and originals like Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks, will likely remain a major draw for the platform. 

The Real World: Homecoming debuted at launch, based on the seminal MTV reality show and starring the original seven cast members. The Hills, Love & Hip-Hop, Behind the Music and MTV Unplugged have also landed on the streamer. But Paramount Plus promises new reality series including All Star Shore, The Challenge: War of the Worlds and international versions of The Shore.

One of the biggest draws might be for kids. Nickelodeon's library of nearly 7,000 episodes of kids and family shows includes SpongeBob's CG-animated spinoff, Kamp Koral, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Paw Patrol and iCarly. Its 24-hour live channels have five selections that are kiddie-themed and feature content for preschoolers up to teens. Millennials will also find seasons of '90s shows like All That, Kenan & Kel and Are You Afraid of the Dark? It's not Disney Plus, but it's a pretty impressive collection if you're into anything Nickelodeon past or present. 

008-paramount-plus-launch-3-4-2021

You'll find the original SpongeBob cartoon along with a new CG-animated series and original movie on Paramount Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Paramount Plus also integrated CBS Sports HQ, streaming more than 1,000 live sporting events per year, including the NFL on CBS, The Masters and the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. 

Due to the Comedy Central connection, you'll find a large selection of standup specials. Easily navigate to this content by clicking the "Brands" menu, where you'll also see designated tiles for BET, CBS, Smithsonian, Nickelodeon and MTV programming.

In terms of other movies, the Paramount Plus collection is… varied. You have classics like The Godfather trilogy, the Indiana Jones franchise and the Mission Impossibles, but also a whole lot of titles I'd forgotten that were in theaters in the '90s and early aughts (hello AI: Artificial Intelligence, Superstar and Rat Race). I did enjoy the trip down memory lane that scrolling through the available movies gave me, but I wouldn't say it's a must-have selection.

Coming soon: Halo, Paramount movies, revivals and spinoffs 

If you aren't a fan of any of those shows or movies, Paramount Plus may bring you in with some of its upcoming originals, including a Halo series based on the hit video game franchise, a Beavis and Butt-Head reboot, a revival of '90s sitcom Frasier, and a long-awaited new animated Avatar: The Last Airbender movie. The service will also launch a new NCIS series, original films for SEAL Team and Teen Wolf, and another spinoff of popular Paramount series Yellowstone. (Note NBC's streaming service Peacock has the rights to the first three seasons of the show). 

Another bonus: Some major Paramount movies will arrive on the streaming service about a month and a half after they premiere in theaters. Mission: Impossible 7 will arrive on Paramount Plus to stream 45 days after it first hits theaters, and other titles include A Quiet Place Part III and Sonic the Hedgehog.

027-paramount-plus-launch-3-4-2021

You can download the Paramount Plus app on virtually any streaming device. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What's it like to use Paramount Plus? 

I tested the app across an Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick, along with an iPhone ($264 at GameStop) and Android phone, and found the experience to be largely the same across all platforms in terms of layout and content. 

Paramount Plus looks very similar to other streaming services: At the top, you'll see a few featured titles, and, like on Disney Plus and HBO Max, tiles for each brand of content where every network is listed: CBS, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Smithsonian Channel. 

Next is continue watching, trending shows, shows recommended for you and recently added shows. What's a bit different is the On Now row, where you can see what's currently playing on your local CBS networks. For me, that includes my local CBS affiliate station, CBSN (CBS's 24-hour streaming news channel), CBS Sports HQ (CBS's 24-hour streaming sports channel) and ET Live. 

Below that, you'll find other rows such as Sci-Fi TV, Sports, Horror Franchises, Comedy Shows, Nick Jr., Dramas, News and Daytime. 

If you scroll over to the left sidebar, you'll see Search and Home, along with the ability to search through movies, TV shows, live TV, news and all of the different brands. If you navigate this way, you'll find some nested menus that can be a little tricky depending on what streaming device you're using (for example, when you use the sidebar to check movies, another nested menu lets you choose popular, action, comedy, etc., and then toggle over again to the actual choices). But overall, using the platform is straightforward and simple. 

Paramount Plus is available to stream at ParamountPlus.com and on Paramount Plus mobile apps for Apple iOS devices and Android devices. It will also work on your Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV ($40 at Amazon), Samsung Smart TV, PlayStation, Xbox and more.

015-paramount-plus-launch-3-4-2021

Paramount Plus finally added a watchlist feature in June.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Decent features, but some still missing

Paramount Plus supports 4K and HDR for some content if you're a Premium subscriber, which costs more. But 4K is not supported on Roku devices at this time.

You can download up to 25 shows to your mobile device, and stream on three devices at once. You can create up to six separate profiles per account, including profiles with Kids Mode turned on, and decide if you want content for younger kids (rated TV-Y) or older kids (up to TV-PG). Unlike HBO Max, there's no passcode needed for adult profiles, so if your kids wanted to just scroll over to your profile, they could. Be sure to activate the parental controls to filter content for younger viewers.

Basically, this is a functional service, but there aren't a ton of bells and whistles. For example, at launch, there was no watchlist that lets you bookmark shows and movies to watch later. However, the service did finally add a My List feature.

Now playing: Watch this: Paramount Plus: First look
18:14

Should you try Paramount Plus? 

If you're a fan of Star Trek or one of its other originals, having this subscription now to Paramount Plus is a no-brainer -- you'll get the same content plus a whole lot more. The same holds true if you're a fan of reality shows on VH1 and MTV.

If you haven't subscribed and already have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or Disney Plus, know that this probably won't replace any of those for you. But if you are looking for some new shows or want to revisit old favorites, the $5-a-month ad-supported tier is toward the lower end of streaming service prices. It's also a content playground if you have children. And once more originals and major movie releases arrive, it could be worth your while. 

In the meantime, if you're curious and sign up as a new member, you can try out Paramount Plus with a one-week free trial.