CBS’s streaming TV service for cord cutters, CBS All Access – and soon to be home to the new “Star Trek” series – is today rolling out the option of a commercial-free subscription for the price of $9.99 per month. The existing subscription is still available at $5.99 per month, and includes the same content lineup.
The launch comes at a time when the network is pinning its hopes on “Star Trek” Discovery” to bring in viewers to its floundering Netflix competitor. Today, many U.S. viewers are cutting the cord with cable TV and opting for digital antennas to stream network TV for free over the air.
Meanwhile, CBS has chosen not to participate broadly in Hulu, beyond some back catalog classics. (Hulu of course, is owned by competitors like Disney-ABC and 21st Century Fox along with Time Warner and Comcast.)
Having largely opted out of the services where cord cutters and younger viewers discover new shows, CBS is in a tough position – which is why “Star Trek” is shaping up to be a make-it-or-break-it moment for the network, in terms of being able to establish its own niche in the new digital landscape.
CBS All Access hasn’t been very compelling, given that today’s generation of viewers have come to expect that a subscription service means no ads, as with Netflix. Even Hulu eventually caved to this new paradigm, rolling out a commercial-free tier last fall. And Hulu’s ad-free option is $12 per month for far more content than CBS’s $10 per month tier – another factor that could make it difficult for the network attract viewers to either tier of its streaming service.
And let’s not forget that CBS All Access is crippled by its choice to not include full seasons of all its shows, or prior seasons. For example, one of its most popular programs “The Big Bang Theory” only offers the past 7 episodes to paying subscribers. “Person of Interest” only offers 7, as well. Meanwhile, other shows are available from episode one and onward, while others, still, only offer clips.
It’s a confusing assortment, largely designed for “catch-up” viewing, not where you can binge watch a series from start to finish. Again, this seems like CBS is out of touch with what viewers want.
Instead, CBS had hoped to differentiate itself from Netflix and the like by offering some on-demand content mixed with live TV. Now available in over 150 markets across the U.S., CBS All Access subscribers can tune into their local stations as if they were watching live TV. And yes, that means watching commercials, too. Hooray?
In addition, CBS says “select on-demand shows will include promotional interruptions,” meaning CBS has sold the on-demand subscription rights to those shows elsewhere. These promos will be limited to 15 secs, and no more than 30 secs in total per half-hour. They also affect less than 10% of total episodes on the service and less than 20% of shows.
It’s not that unusual for an “ad-free” tier to not be entirely ad-free, though – Hulu has this same affliction with some of ABC’s content, also due to streaming rights. However, in CBS’s case, these are not “commercials” – they’re just promos for CBS content or its services.
CBS says there are 7,500 episodes available on CBS All Access. Shows with full seasons include “Big Brother,” “Blue Bloods,” “Madam Secretary,” “The Odd Couple,” and others, including some late night, daytime, and news programming. Both the commercial-free and ad-supported tiers will also air the new “Star Trek” as well as the upcoming “The Good Wife” spinoff and the new, digital edition of “Big Brother.”
The streaming service, which now reaches 1 million subscribers, is available on iOS, Android, Windows 10, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Chromecast, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, with more platforms coming soon.