Paramount+ : A (Not Entirely) new challenger approaches the streaming wars

Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

There’s a whole lot of money to be made in the streaming industry, and every big corporation with a closet full of intellectual property wants a service all of their own to bring in a big monthly paycheck. The streaming wars are being fought every day by huge names like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max. ViacomCBS is the latest streaming hopeful, launching their brand-new Paramount+ earlier this month, Mar. 4, 2021.

Before - CBS All Access

Paramount+ isn’t quite the shiny new streaming service the ad campaign wants to sell it as though. Paramount+ began life in 2014 as CBS All Access. CBS All Access never managed to achieve any mainstream success, lagging far behind the other big names in the streaming space.

CBS All Access was never given a chance to succeed, receiving very little original content, easily the most important component of any prospective streaming platform. CBS All Access was host to three new “Star Trek” series, all of which will be continuing under Paramount+, and not a lot else of note. CBS put a lot of promotion into their “Twilight Zone” reboot, but it ended up being canceled after only one season.

CBS seemed unwilling to put a lot of money into developing CBS All Access, things changed when CBS merged with Viacom in Nov. 2019, however. Following the merger, plans to add Paramount content and launch a much larger service were announced only three months later in Feb. 2020.

Now - Still no original content

It’s unclear why ViacomCBS chose to launch Paramount+ now when they have almost no original content ready. The official rebranding of CBS All Access to Paramount+ on Mar. 4 was given a huge ad campaign, taking advantage of Paramount’s mountain logo with the clever slogan: “Peak Entertainment.”

Unfortunately, there’s very little new entertainment offered right now. The Mar. 4 launch brought with it a few documentaries, a new MTV branded reality show, the third “Spongebob Squarepants” movie and “Kamp Koral,” a new Spongebob Squarepants spinoff series. “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run” isn’t very good, and certainly can’t hold up the service alone.

The only headlining piece of original content for Paramount+ at launch is the third “Spongebob Squarepants” movie. Photo courtesy of Variety.

Beyond original content, Paramount+ does have a pretty wide selection of films and television shows from Paramount and CBS’s long histories, added throughout 2020. Paramount has also announced intentions to bring theatrical films like “A Quiet Place: Part II” and “Mission: Impossible 7” to the service only 45 days after they debut in theaters.

Paramount+ currently costs $6 a month to view content with ads. An ad-free plan is available at $10 a month. For comparison, Disney+ charges $8 a month with no ads and Netflix charges between $9-17.

The Future - Rebooting the past

Paramount+ is basing much of its original content strategy on reviving older IP like teen sitcom iCarly. Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Unlike the previous CBS All Access, Paramount+ has a large list of announced and in-development original content for its service. Reboots are announced for “Fraisier”, “iCarly”, “Rugrats”, “Beavis and Butt Head” and “Dora the Explorer.” Series based on Paramount films like “The Italian Job” and “Fatal Attraction” are in development. New seasons of existing Star Trek shows are in production, as well as two new series. A series based on the video game franchise “Halo” is currently filming. Popular crime drama “Criminal Minds” ended with its 15th season only last year, but Paramount+ will be host to a 16th season. They’re even making a sequel to the two “Grease” films, titled “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.”

Paramount is putting money behind original content in a big way, and diving into their own catalog of IP to produce a wide range of projects. While right now, Paramount+ doesn’t have much to draw in users besides its significant legacy catalog, in a year or two, Paramount+ absolutely has the potential to be one of the biggest names in the streaming game.