CBS All Access Review 2019
The bottom line
It does a lot for under $10 a month, but CBS All Access doesn’t quite deliver on the “All” promise of its “Access.” CBS’s streaming TV service is the first from a major television network and, as a result, hasn’t necessarily gotten everything right out of the gate.
But it’s on the right track: CBS All Access features critically acclaimed originals like The Good Fight, Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot, and a handful of others exclusive to the app.
Those exclusives are headlined by the buzz-worthy Star Trek: Discovery and every other past Star Trek series. CBS All Access could just as easily have been branded as Star Trek+.
From the regular television side, CBS All Access streams CBS hits like The Big Bang Theory and Survivor the day after they air, yesteryear classics like Wings and Twin Peaks, and live CBS Sports events, including the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tournament.
There are, however, conspicuous gaps in its CBS programming archives, limitations on current broadcast hits and sports events, and an on-demand “Movies” section that’s slimmer than Captain Picard’s tunic. Star Trek puns—we can’t help ourselves.
CBS All Access’s biggest selling points are its still-small original content pool and next-day streaming availability of CBS shows. It’s not much, but Hulu started with less over a decade ago, so CBS All Access might be worth checking out if you’re looking for something new and different.
CBS All Access promotions and deals
Subscribing to CBS All Access as a secondary streaming service through SHOWTIME will get you both at a reduced cost. This applies to CBS All Access’s Limited Commercials and Commercial Free plans.
CBS All Access plans
Data effective as of 08/19/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
There are two basic pricing tiers with CBS All Access: the $5.99 a month Limited Commercials plan, and the $9.99 a month Commercial Free plan. Both are misleadingly titled because their descriptions apply to only on-demand content (live TV is still excluded).
The ad load on the Limited Commercials option isn’t discernibly lighter than with standard on-demand, and the Commercial Free upgrade still includes “promotional interruptions” for CBS programming. It’s a clever distinction, but not completely “commercial-free.”
CBS All Access also has a smattering of on-demand movies to choose from, but it’s a rotating grab bag of releases ranging from hits like The Karate Kid and Legally Blonde to obscurities like Kalifornia (not a typo).
On-demand TV shows:
- The Big Bang Theory
- The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
- Star Trek series
On-demand TV movies:
- The Karate Kid
- Legally Blonde
- Patriot Games
- The Sweetest Thing
- 2 Days in the Valley
Original shows and movies
The exclusive All Access originals that led the service’s debut hype years ago, Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Fight, are front and center on CBS All Access.
Other originals like No Activity (a Will Ferrell and Adam McKay–produced cop comedy), Strange Angel (a historical drama based on the life of rocket pioneer Jack Parsons), and The Twilight Zone (a modern take on the classic series, hosted by Jordan Peele) are also worth a look.
Still, CBS All Access’s exclusive content ratio is severely lopsided. With only seven original series currently available, this isn’t exactly Netflix.
Original TV Shows:
- Star Trek: Discovery
- The Good Fight
- The Twilight Zone
- Why Women Kill
- Strange Angel
- No Activity
- One Dollar
- Tell Me a Story
CBS All Access has livestreamed NFL games to home devices since 2016. It recently added mobile-viewing capability as part of CBS Sports’ partnership with the league, which extends through 2022. CBS All Access streams the same football coverage that’s available via broadcast and cable, and regional blackouts still apply.
CBS All Access can also accommodate your March Madness desires—up to a point. CBS Sports’ coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will stream live on CBS All Access, but as March Madness followers know, not all of the action is carried by CBS.
More than half of the NCAA games—including the Final Four—air on cable outlets TBS, TNT, and truTV. You’ll only get CBS’s portion of the coverage with CBS All Access.
If you just can’t wait 24 hours to see what happened between Kensi and Deeks on NCIS: Los Angeles on demand (who possibly could?), CBS All Access does stream CBS live in over 150 local markets.
The $9.99 no-ads premium applies to only CBS All Access on-demand content, though. You’ll still see commercials on the live feed, because it’s, well, live. You can’t get around that, unfortunately.
The only add-on available for CBS All Access is CBS-owned SHOWTIME. If you’ve been wanting to check out Billions—which, spoiler, isn’t about a rich philanthropist named Billy Billions—CBS All Access makes it easy.
- CBS All Access Limited Commercials + SHOWTIME ($14.99/mo.)
- CBS All Access Commercial Free + SHOWTIME ($18.99/mo.)
Combine CBS All Access with another streaming service
If CBS All Access doesn’t give you everything you want, try pairing it with another streaming service to fill in the blanks—you’ll probably still save money over a cable or satellite subscription.
|Score inexpensive plans for livestreaming entertainment and sports channels.|
|Hulu + Live TV|
|Get Hulu Originals plus livestreaming entertainment, sports, and local channels.|
$44.99 for first mo.
|Satisfy your soccer appetite and pick up 90+ livestreaming entertainment channels.|
|Hulu + Live TV|
$44.99 for first mo.
CBS All Access specs and features
Unlike most other streaming services that offer live TV, CBS All Access has no cloud DVR.
Since everything aired on CBS is made available the next day on demand, this isn’t a major minus—unless you’d prefer to watch the new Madam Secretary later tonight. Political spoilers travel fast these days.
CBS All Access gives you just two simultaneous streams, which is on the lower end for streaming TV services (Sling TV and PlayStation Vue allow four and five, respectively; YouTube TV and fuboTV allow three).
The CBS All Access FAQ page also states that it “may change the maximum number of simultaneous streams of All Access that you may use at any time in its sole discretion.” We hope that means more streams in the future.
Compatible streaming devices
CBS All Access will work on every type of streaming device available, with one exception: Nintendo. A video game platform that’s only good for playing video games? Unthinkable.
CBS All Access is compatible with these devices:
- Roku, Roku Stick, Roku TV
- Amazon Fire TV, Fire Cube, Fire Stick, Fire Tablet
- Apple TV, iPhone, iPad
- Android TV, phones, tablets
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
- Google Chromecast
- PC, Mac web browsers
Video and audio quality
If you’re a devotee of 4K and HDR (high dynamic range) video resolution, bad news: the best CBS All Access can display is 1080p. For the average viewer, that means it looks as sharp as most of what you watch on cable and Netflix.
1080p is still a solid HD picture, but CBS All Access not making its gorgeous flagship (or starship) series Star Trek: Discovery available in 4K or HDR is a slight—it may be a prequel to the 1960s series, but it doesn’t have to look like it.
The audio quality of CBS All Access’s stream is standard 2.0 stereo. Don’t worry: The Late Late Show with James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” still sounds pretty good in regular stereo.
Our final take
Unless you’re a diehard Star Trek fan, CBS All Access seems mostly, as Mr. Spock would say, “illogical.”
Access to CBS’s deep catalog of non-Trek series has been somewhat exaggerated. Hard-to-find CBS cult classics like Joan of Arcadia and Viva Laughlin, naturals for a service like this, are absent. And only two of the four CSIs are available (CSI and CSI: Miami). The exclusion of CSI: Cyber, funniest unintentional comedy ever, is a crime.
CBS All Access could complement a more all-inclusive livestreaming TV service (like Sling TV, which doesn’t carry CBS). But as a stand-alone subscription, there’s not much to geek out about.
But all that Star Trek, right?