Paramount Plus

by 24britishtvJune 22, 2022, 11 p.m. 18
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Paramount Plus will forge its own path in the UK, but the US version feels essential only if you’re a football fan seeking access to the brilliantly produced Champions League football. However, for Sky and Now subscribers, it will be free and a fantastic bonus – especially for Trekkies!

Yet another streaming service is traversing the pond to launch on UK soil. Paramount Plus will arrive in the UK on June 22, bringing exclusive access to the Halo original TV show in the process. It will be free for Sky and Now subscribers, and an affordable £6.99/month and £69.90/year for everyone else.

We’ve been spending time with the American version of the streaming service, which offers a stellar line-up of original programming from the Star Trek franchise, feature-length South Park specials, SpongeBob SquarePants, Rugrats, and dibs on Hollywood movies from Paramount Studios following their theatre runs. There’s also a new Beavis & Butthead movie coming directly to Paramount Plus.

You also get the might of live Champions League and Europa League football, as Paramount also owns the CBS networks. Then there’s NFL, PGA tour golf and major college sports, too. However, UK subscribers won’t get any of those, since the rights are held by different media outfits, such as BT Sport and Sky Sports.

In the US, this range of content competes with NBC’s Peacock, for example, where it’s battling against the likes of Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max; but in the UK, it will be more about the battle for new subscribers against Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus

Paramount Plus is available in the United States for $4.99 a month with ads. The $9.99 Premium subscription plan costs $9.99 a month. Paramount Plus will launch in the UK on June 22 for £6.99/month and £69.90/year.
• Relatively wide support on mobile, consoles and smart TV

Paramount Plus covers most of the major bases on mobile, set-top boxes and smart TV. You can, of course, watch on a web browser on Windows and Mac, too. While support is growing, the list of supported platforms isn’t quite as exhaustive as some rivals. There’s still no PS5 app, for example. Here’s the list of major supported platforms:

Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Xfinity boxes, as well as PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and LG, Vizio and Samsung Smart TVs.
• Not the most user-friendly streaming app

The Paramount Plus interface is perhaps the least user-friendly of the major platforms. Finding what you want can be a bit of a pain. The UI is dominated by five to six pieces of rotating content that viewers can “Watch Now” via a single click.

However, it can be quite handy if you’re tuning in for a live Champions League game on a Wednesday night, or want the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode the moment it drops on a Thursday.

Next up are the hubs for the various brands that fall under Paramount’s banner. There’s CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, Smithsonian and Bet. From here, you’ll be able to dive deeper; but for people who don’t necessarily know which network their show is on, it feels too prominent.

Next is My List, Trending Movies, Trending Shows, Movies/Shows Recommended For You. There’s also a section called “Enjoy Before They’re Gone” to single out content that’s departing the service. That’s helpful – it also appears on the title page for content that’s leaving on a certain date.

The neatest little quirk is when you hover over a thumbnail; it expands to reveal a brief trailer and a synopsis of the show itself. It’s less imposing than Netflix’s version of a similar feature and saves you a click or two.

Paramount Plus supports the latest video and audio formats. Depending on your streaming device, you can access 4K HDR content with Dolby Vision and HDR10 support. You’ll need select Roku models (although it isn’t supported on RokuOS 10.5), Amazon Fire TV (4K Stick, Cube), Android TV and Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen).

Dolby Atmos audio support is also available, but only on select Apple devices; an iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. Naturally, you’ll need a compatible sound system connected to your TV in the latter instance.

Dolby Vision/HDR10 (content displays a 4K badge if there’s no HDR) and Dolby Atmos/5.1 availability is indicated by badges on the content pages. The audiovisual performance scales to the equipment you have, and you can’t alter the playback settings at an app level. The premium AV features do, of course, require the Premium subscription, which also removes ads. That’s double the price at $9.99.

In terms of the content available, Paramount has done a solid job of ensuring new movies are decked out in 4K HDR. For example, Jackass Forever, Sonic 2, The Lost City and the Scream reboot offer 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos. There are also classics such as The Godfather series and A Quiet Place, Top Gun and Raiders of The Lost Ark.

I’d like to see a few more of the classics within the lineup – such as Gladiator and Pulp Fiction – get the 4K treatment at some point, too.

TV shows in 4K HDR are sparse, to say the least. The Halo TV show isn’t offered beyond HD, neither are the South Park Covid specials (not like you’re going to miss the difference there, though). One of the other key original properties is the Star Trek franchise. Discovery and Picard are in 4K, but Strange New Worlds isn’t. Strange indeed.

You can add profiles for multiple users, including one with a Kids mode (older and younger) switch that surfaces kid-friendly content – be it Rugrats, SpongeBob, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol or Clifford the Big Red Dog. The interface for these profiles is friendlier to navigate, too, with large thumbnails for recognisable characters.

Offline downloads are available within the mobile app, and you’ll get access to those downloads for 30 days. You’ll need to stay within the app while they download. Something to bear in mind if you’re rushing to get something downloaded to watch on the plane.
• The home of Star Trek, Halo and South Park specials
• Champions League football in the US

I’ve touched on this throughout the review, but the CBS/Paramount archives and current properties can’t really compete with the likes of Disney Plus and HBO Max in terms of playing host to the must-see cultural touchstone franchises – Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, DC, HBO and so on.

The cupboard isn’t bare, though. Star Trek, Mission Impossible, The Godfather, Jackass and Indiana Jones all live within this streaming service now.

The original TV lineup relies heavily on the Star Trek shows, lots of South Park feature-length specials (now and for years to come), and the brand-new Halo series. The Yellowstone prequel 1883 has also been well received, and there’s the iCarly revival, too.

It can feel a little fragmented, however. Even though Paramount owns Comedy Central, you won’t find all of its shows within the streaming service. The South Park archive, for example, lives on HBO Max, not Paramount Plus. The library is littered with such examples; Yellowstone is on Peacock. As existing content deals expire, we should see more of these shows return home.

For UK viewers, this lineup probably isn’t going to inspire a large uptake of free trials and a month or so of viewing, but without the football coverage it might be a harder sell long-term. The full Paramount+ UK library hasn’t been announced.

Speaking of the football coverage, it has been consistently fantastic since CBS obtained the rights from Fox. It has its own commentary team for the biggest games (including the great Peter Drury, no less), top analysis from Thierry Henry, Micah Richards, Jamie Carragher, Peter Schmeichel and Guillem Balagué.

Kate Abdo is a fantastic host and the broadcasts are consistently enjoyable, with some great back and forth and light humour in there. BT Sport could learn a thing or two (glares at Jake Humphrey and Steve McManaman).

The 4K HDR content looks as you’d expect: exceptionally crisp and vivid on my 2021 LG C1 OLED 65-inch TV. I wasn’t able to test a Dolby Atmos speaker during this time, but sound was excellent through my Sonos Beam (Gen 1) soundbar.

Paramount recommends a minimum 4Mbps internet speed for streaming. The company doesn’t specify, but in general you’ll need at least 20Mbps broadband in order to watch 4K HDR content without buffering.

During tests, my Apple TV app was subject to crashing; not during the streams themselves, but while browsing through the interface. It happened five to six times through the testing period. I’m sure this is a minor bug that needs sorting.

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