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CBS All Access is set to become Paramount Plus next year because branding is hard

CBS All Access is set to become Paramount Plus next year because branding is hard


Ah, yes Paramount, the hip studio all the kids love

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Disney has Disney Plus, Apple has Apple TV Plus, and now ViacomCBS is about to have Paramount Plus.

ViacomCBS announced that it would be renaming its CBS All Access streaming service to Paramount Plus in early 2021. As part of the rebrand, Paramount Plus will also receive five new original series from different verticals across the company, including Paramount, CBS, MTV, and BET. Some new titles include The Offer, a 10-episode scripted mini-series about the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, a new iteration of MTV’s Behind The Music, and a revival of The Game. In addition to the new series orders announced today, ViacomCBS plans to bring more than 30,000 additional episodes and movies from its various content houses to the streaming service.

Now, the obvious question here is why Paramount Plus? Paramount is a celebrated film studio, but it doesn’t hold the same kind of weight and affinity among consumers at large the way Disney does. Plus, Paramount doesn’t exactly scream “for the younger generation” the way that ViacomCBS executives reportedly want it to. The whole reason for the name change is reportedly because executives thought the CBS label wouldn’t bring in new younger subscribers. They’re probably not wrong!

There are a couple of reasons that I get Paramount Plus. If we look at ViacomCBS’s brands, there are far more consumer-friendly names, like Nickelodeon, Showtime, BET, and even MTV. But Showtime already has a streaming service, and so does BET. Nickelodeon and MTV are beloved, but they also risk alienating a whole swath of potential subscribers who might see Nickelodeon and think “kids programming” or MTV and think “reality TV shows” or “content I don’t want to pay $10 a month for.” If ViacomCBS wants to use one of its staples in the name, Paramount is recognizable, more accessible, and probably the best option. Not to mention that Paramount Plus is the streaming service’s name in parts of Europe already.

Look, branding is difficult

Except, I would argue that ViacomCBS doesn’t need a brand in its name. Again, Paramount in 2020 isn’t Disney. It’s not HBO or Warner Bros. Why not drop the CBS in All Access and just rebrand it as All Access? The switch reminds me of when Viacom purchased Paramount in 1994 and decided to rename the iconic book publishing house of Simon & Schuster to Paramount Publishing, only to change it back a few months later.

It would be one thing if the Paramount name was going to drive hordes of people to sign up because Paramount is synonymous with big franchises in 2020. Franchises like Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm are synonymous with Disney (alongside Disney live-action and animated films), so Disney Plus works. How many people are walking around going, “Oh right, the studio I closely associate with Mission Impossible, Transformers, and Sonic the Hedgehog movies.”

Look, branding is difficult (see anything related to Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox launch). I’m not trying to say that coming up with a perfect name is easy. That’s why there are so many Pluses and Maxes in our streaming world. Who knows, maybe people have a much bigger affinity for Paramount overseas, where ViacomCBS wants to expand its service. It does make me appreciate when a Peacock rolls around, though — a streaming service reliant on a ton of different NBCUniversal brands that maybe don’t stand out enough on their own, so a new name associated with the network is used instead.

Anyway, all of this is a long way of saying: your CBS All Access streaming service will become Paramount Plus in 2021.