After trying a subscription of the over-the-top service from CBS, my conclusion is that it costs more than it’s worth. The amount of content available doesn’t justify the monthly price, especially when the majority of it is available free. I think CBS is counting on viewers willing to pay for convenience, but the price tag is high enough that consumers could get a lot more programming from Hulu for the same monthly fee.
What you can watch
The service gives viewers complete access to a streaming library of classic and current CBS shows, including daytime shows, late night, news, and original programming. It also makes it easy to access live TV streams of your CBS local affiliate, CBS News, CBS Sports HQ for sports coverage, and ET Live for entertainment.
CBS All Access has two tiers. The ad-supported version costs $5.99/month with no contract, and the commercial-free option is $9.99/month. It’s difficult to reconcile watching commercials on a subscription-based app, although it is comparable to Hulu’s two-tiered approach.
You can score a slight discount by paying for the annual plan up front, but if you decide to cancel or downgrade to the monthly option, you won’t receive prorated credit or a refund. Switching from annual to monthly requires canceling your annual plan and re-establishing a new account with a monthly option and CBS All Access won’t refund any unused portion of your annual plan.
The streaming service makes episodes available faster and it’s convenient
You can watch all of the first-run shows, with the exception of 7 subscriber-only programs, free when they air live with an over-the-air antenna. If you miss it while it’s on live, you can catch all of the episodes of the current season on CBS.com via your browser at no charge. If you wait out the five-day delay after it airs live, episodes are available on the CBS app free on your mobile device. Due to licensing restrictions, NFL games are not available on CBS All Access on mobile phones.
Viewers who absolutely, positively have to watch it on a big screen in the living room (and don’t know how to Chromecast) might consider paying for the service. Same goes if you’re a huge Star Trek fan and want to watch Discovery. Before you decide to plunk down hard-earned cash, you should know that even with a subscription, the channel enforces a one-day delay for on-demand playback of newly aired shows.
There isn’t enough programming to justify the price
It’s hard to judge the value of a service simply on the number of shows because quality is so much more important than quantity in entertainment. On that measure, CBS does produce high-quality scripted content like the fan favorites CSI, Hawaii Five-0, and NCIS. The company is also prioritizing subscriber-only original series like Star Trek: Discovery. Subscribers also get live feeds of the local CBS affiliate, 24/7 live-streaming news channel CBSN, all-day entertainment on ET Live, and coverage of NFL on CBS HQ Sports.
In terms of what shows are available, CBS All Access definitely comes up short when compared to a similar service like Hulu. Hulu has current and past episodes of shows from every other broadcast channel, as well as a wealth of high-quality original programming, and a ton of movies.
As I write this article, CBS All Access has 25 movies and 131 shows in the on-demand library. Of those shows, 47 are classics like Happy Days, Gunsmoke, and I Love Lucy. Fifteen shows are daytime shows like the Bold and the Beautiful, and Let’s Make a Deal. Twelve news programs, two late-night shows, and four specials break down the rest. Almost 40% is original programming.
The bottom line
Like I said up front, it’s hard to judge the value of the service based on how many shows it carries. Football fans who have trouble receiving CBS on an over-the-air antenna would definitely shell out a few bucks a month to watch NFL on CBS.
Perhaps a better number to look at is the number of episodes, or to determine how much you would pay to watch every episode of every Star Trek series that’s ever been made. CBS All Access has more than 10,000 episodes of different seasons of shows you love. Many of the seasons are unique to this platform, so you won’t see this content anywhere else.
The app also makes it easy to watch your favorite CBS programs, whether live or on-demand, on any device no matter where you are. It’s up to you whether the convenience is worth $5.99 or $9.99 per month. For our family, we enjoyed catching up on a few favorite shows and then canceled the service.
Disclaimer: This article may have had additional images, links or data that was added by this site's editor.
We are happy to be a featured partner of the Cord Cutting Daily news network.