As the streaming services harvest their latest Golden Globe awards, a newcomer arrives.
On Thursday (March 4), Paramount Plus debuts. It will immediately offer a new “SpongeBob” movie (shown here) and series, with plans to revive everything from “Frasier” to ”Beavis ad Butt-Head.”
And it leaves a key question: Do we really need another streaming service?
No, actually, but don’t worry. This is simply a bigger, bolder version of one of the first streamers.
CBS All Access arrived in 2014, long before there was a Disney+ or a Discovery+ or an AMC+ or any other stray +. That was also before HBO Max, Peacock and others.
It was modestly priced and modestly ambitious, gradually getting to eight million subscribers. Its main asset was a deep library of shows produced by CBS and its parent company (Paramount), including “Cheers,” “Star Trek,” “Twin Peaks,” “MacGyver” and many more. It also had a few original shows, high on quality (sometimes) and low on quantity.
It was a modest plan, competing with Amazon, Apple … and, especially, Netflix, which now reports more than 200 million subscribers worldwide. CBS All Access seemed content with eight million.
Lately, however, competitors have emerged with big, brash plans. After 15 months, Disney+ reports 95 million subscribers… after nine months, HBO Max has 17 million (plus another 20 million HBO subscribers who could add it) … after seven months, Peacock has 33 million users, if you count the ones who watch it for free, with ads.
All of that was reflected Sunday, when the streamers dominated the Golden Globes:
– For TV, they had 10 of the 13 winners. The only exceptions were “Schitt’s Creek” (on the Pop cable channel) and “I Know This Much is True,” which debuted on HBO, just before HBO Max began.
– For movies, the streamers had 13 of the 14 winners.
The movie dominance was partly a temporary quirk of the pandemiuc: Films intended for the big screen (“Nomadland,” “Soul,” etc.) streamed simultaneously, because many theaters were closed.
Still, it was a sign of the streamers’ strength. Paramount wants to be part of that, going far beyond the modest CBS All Access goals.
The first All Access series, “The Good Fight,” is a winner. Spinning off from “The Good Wife,” it has deep characters and smart dialog.
The second, “Star Trek: Discovery,” sometimes gets a bit cold and impersonal. (That happens when your central character was raised by Vulcans.) But it has stunning, movie-quality visuals.
Since then, there have been more “Trek” spin-offs (including “Star Trek: Picard”), an ambitious Stephen King mini-series (“The Stand”), a clever little comedy (“No Activity”) and several shows (including “Tell Me a Story”) that disappointed.
Now comes the bigger push. It will start with SpongeBob and continue to lean on familiar names.
Paramount lus has signed Kelsey Grammer for a new “Frasier” season and Miranda Cosgrove for an“iCarley” reboot. It will turn movies into TV series (“Grease,” “Flashdance,” “Love Story,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Italian Job”) and TV series into movies (“Workaholics,” “Beavis and Butt-Head”).
It will do a series version of the “Halo” video game. It will also revive “The Real World,” “Road Rules” and “Inside Amy Schumer” and give Trevor Noah a weekly show, alongside “The Daily Show.”
It will try to make a big splash … and find out if we really need another streaming service.