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CBS All Access: Cost, what’s on it, and how to sign up

CBS has launched its own streaming service, complete with exclusives, but is it worth your dollar?

Jul 31, 2020, 8:08 am*


John-Michael Bond 

John-Michael Bond

  • CBS All Access is a streaming video on demand service that focuses mostly on the popular TV network’s comedies and dramas, though it also provides 24-hour news and live TV from CBS affiliates in more than 200 markets.
  • That’s not all CBS All Access does, though. It also spotlights original programming and is becoming more of a player in sports with its acquisition of Champions League soccer.
  • The service gives subscribers to many (but not all) episodes of CBS shows from throughout its storied history. Fans of CBS’s popular crime dramas and Star Trek spinoffs will find hours of programming here to satisfy their tastes.
  • It also houses movies from Paramount, and live sports and entertainment coverage.
  • In July 2020, it beefed up its offerings by adding than 3,500 episodes from the ViacomCBS portfolio, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Smithsonian Channel.
  • It starts at $5.99 per month, with a $9.99 per month option for those who want an ad-free experience.
  • In addition to the wide range of device options available to subscribers, Amazon Prime Video users can watch CBS All Access within that platform.
  • CBS All Access will start you off with a seven-day free trial.

At the dawn of the streaming renaissance, services like Netflix represented freedom, a way to cut your entertainment cost without sacrificing content. As time has gone by, the market has learned to adapt, with traditional content providers launching their own services.

In 2014, CBS launched its own streaming service, CBS All Access. If you’re a fan of CBS’s slate of comedies and dramas, it’s worth investigating. Here’s everything you need to know about the service, including information on free trials.



How much is CBS All Access?

CBS All Access costs just $5.99 per month for its base model, which includes limited ads. If you want an ad-free experience, you’ll want to upgrade to the $9.99 per month version. Its own promotional materials emphasize that you can quit at any time—you’re certainly not locked into a long-term contract when you sign up.

cbs all access 640 x 500 logo
With ads$5.99



What’s on CBS All Access?

CBS All Access is a subscription streaming service in the spirit of Netflix and Hulu, providing access to more than 15,000 on-demand episodes of CBS content. It also provides a limited movie selection from Paramount, which is under the ViacomCBS media umbrella.

It also lets users watch live TV in more than 200 markets, including CBS itself, CBSN (the network’s 24-hour news channel), CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live. Given that CBS is one of two networks carrying the bulk of NFL games, live access to CBS is particularly important to football fans come fall. To see a complete list of where you can use the service, visit this website.

The biggest draw here is the network’s massive library of shows. Launched in 1941, CBS has aired some of TV’s biggest hits and most important series of all time. From modern hits to classic TV, CBS All Access is hypothetically a dream come true for binge-watchers.

There’s just one problem: That legendary catalog is incomplete, in part due to licensing issues with its production companies. For example, if you want to watch all the episodes of The Big Bang Theory, you need to go to HBO Max even though you’d expect them to be on CBS All Access. (There are a few episodes of that particular show on CBS All Access, but only a few.)

Arguably, the biggest draw about CBS All Access for sci-fi fans is Star Trek: Discovery. It’s the first new Star Trek series in over a decade, and it stars Sonequa Martin-Green. Star Trek: Discovery is set 10 years before the Original Series and focuses on an escalating conflict with the Klingons

Following the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery‘s first episode, the network announced that it broke its record for most subscriber signups in a single day as fans signed up to watch the rest of the premiere (or watch it in full) on CBS All Access. The record was previously held by the 2017 Grammy Awards.

Star Trek: Picard, another popular spinoff in the sci-fi series, goes where no previous Trek has gone before, by bringing back one of Starfleet’s most celebrated captains to helm this long-awaited new series. In the new series, which takes place after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis and the destruction of Romulus in Star Trek (2009), Admiral Picard is finally leaving his cozy retirement to his family’s vineyard to once again travel the stars. In a darker, more tumultuous galaxy, Picard must once again save the Alpha Quadrant and perhaps save himself. 

You can also check out The Good Fight, the successful CBS All Access spin-off of the hit The Good Wife, as well as reality spinoff Big Brother: Over the Top.

More than 3,500 episodes across the ViacomCBS portfolio were added in July 2020, with series from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Smithsonian Channel going into the CBS All Access lineup. Those include Spongebob Squarepants, Chapelle’s Show, and Avatar: Last Airbender.

There’s a limited section of movies on CBS All Access, from the Paramount archives that Viacom owns, it’s not enough to really compete with other services hosting movies.



CBS All Access devices

CBS All Access can be viewed on a wide variety of devices, with support for Roku, Apple TV,  Android, and Android TV, Google ChromecastAmazon Fire TV, select smart TVs, most gaming consoles. The CBS app is incredibly efficient, with HD streams across all devices.

Amazon Prime Video subscribers can add on CBS All Access starting at $5.99. If you’re familiar with that service’s interface, that might be a more appealing option for you. While Amazon has long offered premium channels like Starz and HBO, the addition of CBS All Access is notable because it was Amazon’s first foray into live TV streaming



CBS All Access downloads and multiple screens

If you have the higher-tier Commerical Free version, you can download up to 25 episodes and/or movies to view later. While you can only view a particular episode or movie within 30 days of download or 48 hours from when you first press play, you can always download the episode or movie in question again, should the clock run out on your first attempt.

One account allows for access from two devices simultaneously.



CBS All Access vs. The Competition

CBS All Access vs. Showtime

In part due to Viacom synergy, these services could be seen as complementary rather than competitive. There’s even a history in which they’ve been marketed as a bundle. Showtime’s got a lot more to offer in the way of movies. Of course, there’s also an argument to be made that Showtime’s shows are better overall. But if you’re a fan of CBS’s programming, or you value the live news that CBSN brings to the table, you might choose CBS All Access if you’re choosing between the two.

CBS All Access vs. HBO Max

There may be a future in which this comparison is between Viacom’s media holdings and WarnerMedia’s archives. For now, CBS All Access doesn’t extend much beyond its CBS shows, and licensing issues keep it from featuring some of its best. Consider The Big Bang Theory—to binge-watch the popular CBS comedy, you need to do it via HBO Max rather than CBS All Access. While HBO Max’s TV lineup is mostly HBO shows, it offers up a few other WarnerMedia-produced shows, including Major Crimes, which feels like it could be right at home in CBS’s lineup. At $14.99, HBO Max is more expensive than CBS All Access, but once you factor in movies and documentaries, HBO Max has more value overall.

CBS All Access vs. Hulu

CBS All Access boasts about more than 15,000 hours of programming, which is considerable, but that’s dwarfed by Hulu. In addition to the massive library of shows and movies Hulu’s assembled from various sources, Hulu’s creating its own original content to add to that. One thing CBS All Access has that Hulu doesn’t have on its own is a news department. Between live access to CBS in more than 200 markets, and the 24-hour CBSN news channel, CBS All Access viewers can keep informed for less than $6 a month. Of course, Hulu does offer a live TV streaming option, but then you’re talking about comparison shopping full streaming services vs. standalone services like CBS All Access.



Is CBS All Access worth it?  

CBS All Access may not be worth the cost of your subscription, unless you’re really a fan of the shows featured, or you’re in to stream Champions League matches. Its streaming is clean and clear. It does has a great selection of shows available. And yet, there are already plenty of services with better and more selections. CBS lacks exclusives, and when it is given time to shine via its back catalog, it sometimes only gives you pieces of it instead of the whole thing. It is possible, given the depth of the CBS library and the addition of new ViacomCBS properties, that it’s rounding into a service worth getting.



How to sign up for CBS All Access

If you feel that there’s enough on CBS All Access for you, here’s how to get started.

  1. Go to the CBS All Access website and click the “Try It Free” button.
  2. Select between the Limited Commercials and Commercial Free plan.
  3. Create your CBS All Access account by filling in the fields (including name, email address, and ZIP code)
  4. Enter your payment info and then click the “Start CBS All Access” button to begin the clock on your free trial.
cbs all access 640 x 500 logo
With ads$5.99

Live TV Service Guides

AT&T TV NOW CBS All AccessFubo TV
Hulu with Live TVPhiloPluto TV
Sling TVVidgoYouTube TV

Premium Streaming Service Guides

Amazon PrimeCrunchyRollAcorn TV
CBS All AccessCuriosity StreamAMC Premiere
Disney PlusDC UniverseBritBox
HBO MaxShowtimeShudder
HuluStarzRooster Teeth
NetflixCriterion ChannelYouTube Premium

Entertainment Channel Guides

A&EAMCAnimal Planet
BBC AmericaBETBravo
Cartoon NetworkComedy CentralDiscovery Channel
Disney ChannelDisney XDE!
Food NetworkFreeformFX
FXXHallmark ChannelHGTV
History ChannelIFCLifetime
MTVNat GeoNickelodeon
Nick JrParamount NetworkScience Channel
TLCTravel ChannelTruTV
VH1WillowThe Weather Channel

News Channel Guides

CNNCNBCFox News Channel

Sports Channel Guides

ESPNUESPN DeportesACC Network
Big Ten NetworkBeIN SportsFox Sports
FS1FS2MLB Network
Mountain West NetworkNBA TVNBC Golf
NBC Sports NetworkNFL NetworkNFL Redzone
NHL NetworkPac 12 NetworkTennis Channel
SEC NetworkDAZNUFC Fight Pass
WWE NetworkTUDNCBS Sports Network

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*First Published: Sep 23, 2017, 6:00 am