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CBS All Access

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3/5 User rating

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It’s creative how traditional broadcast channels such as CBS are sequestering content in order to start their dedicated streaming network. This is undoubtedly an attempt to compete with digital content aggregators such as Hulu and Netflix. CBS All Access is CBS’s video subscription service which follows the all-you-can-model.

The reason why CBS can be considered as a competitor of Hulu and Netflix is because of its own Originals. Titles such as ‘Stark Trek: Discovery’, ‘The Good Fight’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, have propelled the network towards tasting streaming success.

I agree that individual networks with less aggregation are not really competitors. However, CBS with its All Access subscription model is able to provide a vast backlog of CBS shows and is the only platform where you can watch its premium content i.e. Originals. It’s following a similar model to ESPN+. Though buying the entire ESPN+ plan doesn’t make sense to me, I’d still be ready to pay the subscription fee because I’m a UFC fan. Similarly, fans who love specific CBS shows, find the monthly subscription cost really palatable.

History

CBS All Access is an American OTT Subscription Streaming VOD service provided by CBS interactive. It offers newly aired content on CBS Network and a backlog of CBS shows which makes its vast content library. Since its launch, CBS has garnered nearly 5 million subscribers with 2019 witnessing the streaming of Grammy Awards and Star Trek: Discovery.

Two years ago, CBS expanded its All Access service to international markets with Canada being the first international market. Just a few months later, CBS also launched All Access in the Australian market.

Star Trek: Discovery – A game-changer

The moment Star Trek: Discovery debuted on CBS All Access, the network set its record for the greatest number of single-day, weekly, or monthly sign-ups. This record was earlier held by the 2017 Grammy award ceremony. Banking on the Star Trek fanbase, CBS was able to harness All Access’ maximum potential.

Design

When it started, the CBS All Access’s design wasn’t up to the mark. However, in its recent updates, it has improved leaps and bounds. It features a sleeker B/W look with a simple navigation menu featuring Shows, Full Episodes and Live TV options. Apart from that, you can find Schedule, CBS Sports, Movies, and CBS News under a menu which is represented by horizontal ellipsis alongside a search bar and profile icon if you want to access your profile.

Its homepage is minimalistic yet attractive. An HD banner with sliders along with a Sign-up CTA ensures that your user-journey begins smoothly. As you scroll down, you’ll find various vertical banners for Trending Now, All Access Originals, Comedies, Classic, Kids, News, Late Night, Drama, Daytime and Reality TV along with horizontal thumbnail for Full Episodes. Through All Access, you can also access Movies, Shop, Tv Provider, CBS News and CBS Sports in a drop-down menu.

Inside pages similar to the homepage are pretty clean and dynamic. If you hover over the vertical banners, it’ll interact with the mouse pointer and upon clicking it, you’ll be taken to a dedicated page for that particular show. A trailer video plays on the main banner with a Blue ‘’Watch Now” CTA button. If you scroll further, you’ll get video library which syncs perfectly followed by the synopsis and cast member.

I really like the simplicity of this website. The developers have maintained the flow throughout the website and it doesn’t feel overdone or absurd on any page. It gives you the rich Netflix vibes with a constant dark background present in the entire website.

Content

If the design doesn’t attract you, All Access’ content might surely get the job done. Firstly, I’d like to clarify that though the content offered is limited, it offers great quality. Dramas such as ‘NCIS’, ‘Elementary’, ‘Blue Bloods’ are very popular and are available on the network. If you like news, you can stay updated with ‘CBS Evening News’, Face the nation and 60 Minutes. If you’re into Comedy, you have ‘Man with a Plan’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Young Sheldon.’ Not just that you can even access classic shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Star Trek Series’, ‘Hawaii 5-0’ and ‘Late Night TV Shows’ featuring James Corden and Stephen Colbert.

CBS All Access Originals make it worth it

Though these offerings are good, it’s the new and original content that sets CBS All Access apart. ‘Strange Angel Tell Me a Story’, ‘No Activity’, ‘Why Women Kill’ and ‘Star Trek Discovery’ are few of the shows which will keep you glued to the network. There are more than 200+ content titles for you to choose from.

Lacks a comprehensive sports package

All-Access Sports might not offer the complete sports package but it does offer some in-demand sports content. You can watch any NFL game that air on CBS, along with select PGA Tour events, NCAA March Madness Tournament and SEC football. However, if you’re a big NFL fan, I won’t recommend All Access to you.

Lack of movies and sufficient titles

I know that it’s nowhere near Amazon Prime Video or Netflix’s catalog but CBS seems to be working on improving the quantity. As of the movie section, there are 30 titles only, which puts it way back in the pecking order against the likes of HBO Now, Starz, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Showtime. Thus, if you enjoy watching movies, I certainly wouldn’t recommend CBS All Access to you.

Desktop/Mobile experience

CBS All Access lacks the top-end features offered by its competitors. These include stream restarting, DVR capabilities to name a few. But apart from that, the desktop and mobile experience does tick all the boxes. It is sleek with bright blue accents. There’s a search bar and you can adjust the streaming quality or download the content (A standard offering in most of the streaming platforms). With that said, I’d admit that the app lags a little when you try to open each page, however, that doesn’t affect the solid streaming experience.

The mobile app launches quickly and doesn’t ask you to log in initially. You can sign-in or sign-up for a new account. Similar to the website interface, you have a top navigation bar on mobile as well. An eye-catching element on the website is the shop section which is bundled between Shows, Live TV, Movies, Schedule, and Settings. You can use this to buy DVDs, Apparel and other gifts. I won’t deny that the shop option does feel out of place on a streaming network.

Through CBS All Access Android or iOS app, you can download the episode for offline viewing. To do so, all you need to do is hit the download icon next to any episode. What you must know is that not every show supports this feature and mostly only the originals are eligible. CBS has set a download limit of up to 25 videos and you can keep the videos on up to five devices only. Once you download them, the videos will be deleted within 48 hours from playback and if not played would stay in your playlist for 30 days max.

Streaming Quality

One thing I’d like to give CBS props for is the streaming quality. Though it’s not on Netflix or Amazon Prime Videos’ level, it still does a great job of offering decent HD quality videos. If you’re watching All Access without Wi-Fi, expect a shaky performance, with quality dipping and video timing out. Yes, your network service has a lot to do with this but if you compare it with other leading streaming sites, you won’t find such significant troubles.

Plans & Pricing

CBS All Access’ simplicity is what I like the most. Its basic plan starts at $5.99/mo which comes with limited commercials. If you want a commercial-free experience, then you need to pay $9.99/per mo.

Remember that even if you pay the premium price, you’re not exempt from Live TV advertisement. Thus, promotional messaging is going to be a part of Live TV regardless of the amount you pay. In addition to that, $5.99, doesn’t allow offline downloads while $9.99 plan does.

To put this into perspective, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s entry-level plan starts at $8.99/per month. Hulu costs $5.99/per month, Starz costs $8.99/per month and HBO Now costs $14.99/per month.

Suggestions I have for CBS All Access

I feel that $9.99/per month is certainly an expensive bracket. If you can get Netflix for a dollar less than that and Hulu for just $4.99/month, I don’t see why you’d pick CBS All Access. The only reason why I feel people have subscribed to All Access is because of its Star Trek content along with news coverage, basic sports coverage, and Live TV. I’d like CBS All Access to tie-up with different networks so they can justify the price tag of $5.99 or $9.99 which seems too much as of now.

Conclusion CBS All Access as a streaming service is constantly improving. However, movies and TV shows aren’t enough to validate the price tag.

Likes & Hates:
Web and mobile interface
Selected original shows
Independent presence
Expensive as compared to major streaming sites
Streaming quality not as good as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video
Lack of movie titles