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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?

Sep 15, 2020, 11:34 am*



John-Michael Bond

  • CBS All Access gives subscribers many 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.
  • CBS All Access costs start 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. Thus, in 2014, CBS launched its own streaming service.

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. To see a complete list of where you can use the service, visit this website.

If you're a fan of CBS's slate of comedies and dramas, or want to watch more CBS sports, it's worth investigating. Here's everything you need to know about the service, including information on free trials.

What does CBS All Access cost?

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 shows are on CBS All Access?

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. With modern hits and classic TV, CBS All Access is hypothetically a binge-watcher's dream come true.

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. (However, there are a few episodes of that particular show included.)

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, focusing on an escalating conflict with the Klingons

Following the Star Trek: Discovery premiere, CBS announced that it broke its record for most subscriber signups in a single day. The 2017 Grammy Awards previously held that record.

Star Trek: Picard, another popular spinoff in the sci-fi series, brought back one of Starfleet's most celebrated captains to helm this long-awaited new series. Set after 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 and once again traveling the stars. In a darker, more tumultuous galaxy, Picard must once again save the Alpha Quadrant and perhaps save himself. 

You can also watch The Good Fight, the successful Good Wife spinoff, plus reality spinoff Big Brother: Over the Top.

More than 3,500 episodes across the ViacomCBS portfolio were added in July 2020. The CBS All Access lineup includes series from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Smithsonian Channel. 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 currently not enough to really compete with other services hosting movies.

CBS All Access devices

You can watch CBS All Access on a wide variety of devices: Roku, Apple TV,  Android, and Android TV, Google ChromecastAmazon Fire TV, select smart TVs, and 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. Amazon has long offered premium channels like Starz and HBO. However, CBS All Access is notable because it was Amazon's first foray into live TV streaming

If you have the higher-tier Commerical Free version, you can download up to 25 episodes and/or movies to view later. You can only view it within 30 days of download or 48 hours after starting. But you can always download the content again later.

One account allows for access from two devices simultaneously.

CBS All Access vs. Showtime

In part due to Viacom synergy, these services could be more complementary than competitive. They've even marketed a bundle in the past. Showtime's got a lot more to offer in the way of movies. Some may argue that Showtime's shows are better overall. If you're a fan of CBS programming, or you value the live news that CBSN brings to the table, you'd want CBS All Access.

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. Licensing issues keep it from featuring some of its best. For example, The Big Bang Theory: to binge-watch the popular CBS comedy, you need to do it via HBO Max. While HBO Max's TV lineup is mostly HBO shows, there are other WarnerMedia-produced shows, including Major Crimes, which feels right at home in CBS's lineup. At $14.99, HBO Max is more expensive, but once you factor in movies and documentaries, it 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 200+ markets and the 24-hour CBSN news channel, viewers can keep informed for less than $6 a month. Of course, Hulu offers a live TV streaming option. But it's kind of apples to oranges when you're comparing full streaming services vs. standalone services like CBS All Access.

Is CBS All Access worth it?  

If you're a really big sci-fi fan or you want to stream Champions League matches, CBS All Access is worth the cost. Its streaming is clean and clear. It does have 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. 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 want to sign up for CBS All Access, 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. 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 and Streaming Service Guides

FS2Fox DeportesACC Network
BeIn SportsBig Ten NetworkCBS Sports Network
DAZNFubo Sports NetworkGolf Channel
Longhorn NetworkMAVTVMLB Network
MotorTrendMountain West NetworkNBA TV
NFL NetworkNFL RedZoneNHL Network
Olympic ChannelOutside TVPac-12 Networks
PeacockRAI ItaliaSEC Network
StadiumTennis ChannelTUDN

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