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Paramount Plus is a powerful nostalgia machine, but it doesn’t feel necessary yet

Paramount Plus is a powerful nostalgia machine, but it doesn’t feel necessary yet


This could change — but for now, it’s one big library

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Paramount Plus is maybe one of the best streaming services for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are looking to get nostalgic about the television of their youth. Outside of that, Paramount Plus is a bit of a head-scratcher. There certainly seems to be a bunch to choose from, but with missing seasons, incomplete film collections, and no immediate “must watch” TV or movie options, the question is still why would anyone sign up for this right now?

The good thing is that Paramount Plus’ positives are hard to deny, but most of those positives fall on the TV side. As someone in their late 20s who grew up on a hearty breakfast of Nickelodeon shows, MTV reality series, and crime procedurals, Paramount Plus has everything I would have wanted a decade ago. Last night, I watched a bit of All That before starting up Jersey Shore again and ended the night with some Criminal Minds. A total blast!

Whereas CBS All Access was restrained in its offerings, Paramount Plus takes full advantage of Viacom’s library. Instead of having to choose from a medley of cop shows, classic television, films people may have forgotten about, and various Star Trek installments, there are classic BET and MTV shows, Comedy Central specials, and Nickelodeon collections on top of what CBS All Access already offered (like next-day episodes). Paramount Plus is peak snackable TV, comfort shows that can be tossed on before bed, in the background, or when the nostalgic urge returns.

While Paramount Plus’ library is what stands out, there are issues. Full seasons of shows and installments in film franchises are missing. Rocket Power only has one season available, CSI made the first, second, and 15th seasons available, FBI only has the third season, and several seasons of All That are gone. On the film side, sequels to movies like Grease, Bad News Bears, and Charlie’s Angels are available but not the first movies.

I would imagine this comes down to rights agreements (remember, ViacomCBS shows are also on Netflix, Peacock, and Hulu), but it’s something that came up for me a few times to the point it was noticeable for all the wrong reasons. Understandably, it’s a bit of a pain. But there are full seasons of shows like Drake & Josh, Survivor, Criminal Minds, Cheers, Frasier, various Star Trek seasons, and hundreds of other movies to watch.

Content-wise, Paramount Plus’ biggest flaw is a staggering lack of exciting original series — even the selection of originals is several rows down on the homepage. Considering so many of these series are on other streamers — I can watch Avatar: The Last Airbender and iCarly either on Paramount Plus or Netflix — it’s hard to think of anyone beyond nostalgic 20- and 30-somethings signing up to scratch an itch. And even then, how many people are rushing to rewatch Rugrats when they’re still making their way through a back catalog on Netflix?

(For what it’s worth, it seems like ViacomCBS is aware of this, too, moving A Quiet Place Part II’s release date up to May. This means it will debut on Paramount Plus much earlier than anticipated and hopefully bring in a batch of new subscribers.)

The answer may lie in Paramount Plus’ live offerings. There are four specific live channels with the Premium ($9.99-a-month) plan: CBS local news, CBS News network (24/7), CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live. Since these are pulling feeds from live TV broadcasts, they include ads. I didn’t particularly care about using CBS Local News, CBS News, or ET Live since I can grab the majority of my news from reporters on Twitter, but Sports HQ is interesting. There isn’t any control over what game or sport you’re watching, but I found myself checking back in from time to time to see if it was anything interesting.

The main problem is that it’s not a strong enough offering for sports fans who want access to every game (this is also the group of consumers who tend to hold onto their cable packages longest), and the news offering is relatively weak, too. If the idea is for a group of consumers to use Paramount Plus’ live channels as a replacement of sorts for cable — and I’m not sure that is the idea — it’s simply not enough.

That’s content. But what about the actual platform itself? Like every streaming service, there are pros and cons, but I found the pros greatly outweighed the cons. Like HBO Max and Disney Plus, ViacomCBS makes it so people can browse via preferred network: BET, Nickelodeon, MTV, CBS, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel. This is key for someone like me who is primarily using Paramount Plus for Nickelodeon and MTV shows.

Search tools are pretty accurate, and the subheadings within film and TV sections are plentiful. Switching from one episode to another while watching a show is pretty easy (simply scroll down and pick a new episode), and controls for rewinding or fast-forwarding are effortless. There are plenty of options for caption customization, including font, size, and background color. While a launch wouldn’t be a launch without some cons, the only big one I discovered was not being able to add a show or film to a watch list like Netflix allows.

All in all, Paramount Plus is a pretty decent streaming service for $10 a month. When I feel the desire to rewatch The Hills or Jimmy Neutron, I’m sure I’ll return to it. But in a world where it’s so easy to cancel and sign back up for a service, I don’t see any real reason to keep Paramount Plus now when Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Hulu fulfill so much of the same needs, but with new shows and films that I actively want to use the streaming services for.

Maybe things will change when Mission: Impossible 7, A Quiet Place Part II, and the Halo series become available to stream. For now, it’s a giant nostalgia machine that I’m glad exists, but I don’t feel like I need to add it to my monthly bill cycle.