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CBS All Access gets ready for a major revamp, but streamer faces tough competition

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Evan Evagora, left, and Patrick Stewart in the CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Picard.”
(CBS)

Better late than never, ViacomCBS is looking to use the assets of its recent merger to become more competitive in the streaming wars.

The media company is expected to soon announce a major expansion of CBS All Access, the streaming platform launched by CBS’ interactive division in 2014.

With CBS and Viacom now under one corporate umbrella, the merged company is planning to add films from Paramount Pictures and programs from Viacom’s cable channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central for CBS All Access subscribers.

The company is also looking at a free ad-supported version of All Access, which currently requires a monthly subscription fee of $5.99 with ads or $9.99 ad-free. A higher-priced version that includes ViacomCBS’ premium cable channel Showtime is also under consideration.

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The expansion would provide a much-needed boost to CBS All Access, which has about 6 million subscribers and has not been considered a factor in the streaming landscape led by Netflix (60.6 million subscribers in the U.S.), Hulu (30.4 million) and Disney+ (28.6 million). NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia are both entering the arena later this year with their own services that combine films and TV shows from their studios and networks.

Before its merger with Viacom was completed last year, CBS executives had told Wall Street analysts that the company expected to have 25 million subscribers to its streaming services in two years. With CBS All Access and Showtime each at around 5 million subscribers, the target appeared to be ambitious without a major upgrade to its offerings.

A ViacomCBS representative declined to comment on the expansion plans, first reported by CNBC. But a person familiar with the discussions said the revamp could be unveiled when ViacomCBS releases its next quarterly earnings Feb. 22.

CBS All Access has an extensive library of current and past programs from CBS, including every iteration of the “Star Trek” series. It has offered two original shows based on the franchise: “Star Trek: Discovery” and the newly released “Star Trek: Picard.” The service also gives users a livestream of their local CBS-affiliated TV station.

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Viacom currently has several streaming services aimed at niche audiences, including Noggin, aimed at preschool-age children and BET Plus for African American audiences.


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