First take: Is CBS All Access good?
An over-the-top streaming app, CBS All Access offers livestreams of your local CBS affiliate (plus CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live), on-demand shows, unedited movies, and in-demand original series.
Is all that worth your bucks? If you can forgive technical derps and a bunch of content that overlaps with other popular streaming services, it might be.
CBS All Access deals and promotions
The standard test-drive for CBS All Access is a free seven-day trial. And if you’re a student, you’re also eligible for a 25% discount.
For Prime Day 2019, Amazon offered a discounted monthly rate for subscribing to the CBS app through Prime Video. So keep an eye on Amazon next year, and maybe they’ll offer that deal again.
CBS All Access prices and packages
How much is CBS All Access?
|Limited Commercials plan||$5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr.||✗|
|Commercial Free plan||$9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr.||✓|
CBS All Access comes in two flavors: limited commercials and no commercials. Each is available as a month-to-month or yearly subscription. Choosing the latter option saves you 16.5%, or essentially gives you two free months per year.
The ad-free annual plan ($99.99) unlocks a new benefit too: the ability to download up to 25 hours of content to watch offline. You’ll be able to watch CBS All Access where Wi-Fi is nonexistent or costly (such as on flights) or while traveling abroad. And if you download on Wi-Fi, you’ll save data.
|Missing shows||Popular shows|
|SEE FULL CHANNEL LINEUP||SEE FULL CHANNEL LINEUP|
Despite CBS’s bragging rights as “America’s Most-Watched Network,” you’ve probably heard jokes about CBS being the network where your gram-gram watches her “stories” like The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.
These programs, plus lots of faith-themed and law-enforcement shows, do populate the CBS catalog. But there are plenty of comedies (Everybody Loves Chris, The Neighborhood, Life in Pieces), classic TV (MacGyver, Family Ties), and so many reality shows (The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Love Island, Survivor) to round out the watching experience.
There are also, at the time of this review, 34 full-length movies including comedies (Superbad, Dinner for Schmucks), dramas (American Beauty, Terms of Endearment) and horror films (Carrie and the original Pet Sematary).
As usual, certain series or episodes are missing from the CBS All Access spread. Typically, this is due to licensing problems. For example, you’ll be able to stream only the most recent seasons of The Big Bang Theory and its spinoff Young Sheldon.
Unfortunately, the series 2 Broke Girls is entirely missing—not just from CBS All Access but from virtually all streaming services except the ones that allow livestreaming TBS.
And speaking of licensing problems, only certain episodes of the second season of Happy Days (specific, we know) are streaming on demand. Finally, Star Trek: The Animated Series is the only kids’ content. Hey, CBS: what’d you do with Captain Kangaroo?
|Show||Also available on|
|Blue Bloods||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
|CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
|CSI: Miami||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
|Criminal Minds||Netflix, Prime Video|
|Frasier||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
|The Good Wife||Prime Video, Hulu|
|Madam Secretary||Netflix, Prime Video|
|NCIS||Netflix, Prime Video|
|Star Trek(minus Discovery and Picard)||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
|Twin Peaks||Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu|
What’s on CBS All Access that’s also on other services ?
Granted, you’ll be able to watch the current season of ongoing CBS series sooner with All Access. But all things considered, that’s a small benefit.
|Sports show||Live||On Demand|
|CBS Sports HQ||✓||✗|
|Fantasy Football Today||✓||✓|
|NCAA on CBS||✓||✗|
|NFL on CBS||✓||✗|
|SEC on CBS||✓||✗|
|Super Bowl LIV||✓||✗|
|Super Bowl LV (2021)||✓||✗|
|World Series of Poker||✓||✓|
One thing that CBS has never lacked? Spoooooorrrts!
You’ll find tons of live sports and sporting news on the college, fantasy, and professional levels. Since leagues own the broadcast rights for each game, most of the sports content on CBS All Access will be live broadcasts—which is great, because live is what we want.
There is on-demand sports content, but it’s fairly light. Currently, there are four BIG3 games available and the entire 12th season of Fantasy Football Today. NFL on CBS offers recent news clips and four NFL Game Pass exclusives from 2016 and 2017.
And what’s televised sports without chips? CBS All Access gives you a big stack of 2019 World Series of Poker bracelet events—with uncensored table talk.
Naturally, you can livestream your local CBS affiliate on CBS All Access. That’ll require a quick, easy ZIP code check on your desktop computer, and you’ll be ready to go.
With the smartphone app, you’ll need to grant access to your location. That could scare off privacy fans, but it’s pretty standard practice in the live TV streaming industry.
You can see if your local affiliate is available before subscribing (no info or permissions required).
Want more local channels?
A digital antenna will get you all of your local channels, including CBS, minus the on-demand content. And it’s all free after the initial antenna purchase.
Sorry, folks—they only pump unleaded.
When it comes to streaming services, CBS All Access practically is an add-on.
It offers nothing else along the lines of premium channels, despite owning SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™, and Flix. It’s possible the service sources some of the unedited movies it offers from these channels. But doesn’t it seem like there’s a missed bundle opportunity here?
CBS All Access original shows and movies
Specialties of the house
So what’s on CBS All Access that makes it worth picking up?
The original series are where it’s at.
The science-fiction fandom—especially Star Trek fans—really stand to benefit from subscribing. While Trekkies can find their beloved franchise on other services, CBS All Access is the one-stop shop, with every Trek show from the original series through Enterprise.
If that wasn’t motivation enough, the service is the only place to see current episodes of new entries like Star Trek: Discovery (Netflix also has past seasons) and the upcoming return of Patrick Stewart to the role of Picard, which debuts in early 2020.
Other original series include the cop comedy No Activity, executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and The Good Wife spin-off, The Good Fight. And you really shouldn’t miss the reboot of The Twilight Zone, hosted and produced by Jordan Peele (Key & Peele, Get Out, Us). With CBS All Access, you can watch it in full color or extra creepy black-and-white.
CBS All Access specs and features
Perhaps expectedly, CBS All Access doesn’t have the most tricked-out app. It looks good enough, with its dark-mode design. But it’s otherwise short on features.
There’s no cloud DVR, only two simultaneous streams, average video quality, and a live TV guide that covers only primetime hours. The service does work on a variety of devices, though, including gaming consoles (which is cool), but reports of technical problems like buffering persist (not so cool).
Nothing but clear skies? Meh.
We can’t fault CBS All Access for foregoing a cloud DVR feature since they do offer offline viewing (read on). It does mean that we can’t record live sporting events that air when we can’t tune in though.
But since so much of the remaining content is available on demand—new episodes stream the day after airing—you won’t really miss having a cloud stash. Especially since watching on-demand content means no ads (in most cases).
Sharing is caring.
|Package||Simultaneous streams||Offline viewing||Price|
|Limited Commercials plan||2||✗||$5.99/mo. or $59.99/yr.|
|Commercial Free plan||2||✓||$9.99/mo. or $99.99/yr.|
When you sign up for a streaming service, your family and friends always want to know: is it shareable? Well, both CBS All Access plans let you have two streams at once. So pick a favorite freeloader and hook ‘em up. (Or don’t encourage that behavior–it’s up to you.)
In addition to zapping ads, the Commercial Free plan allows you to download content (15–25 hours, depending on your location) for offline viewing. Note that this isn’t a cloud DVR, so you may need to offload some cat pics and memes to make room on your phone.
Also, not all content is downloadable—if you don’t see the download icon, it’s stream-only.
Plays well with others
|Amazon Fire Stick||✓|
|Amazon Fire TV||✓|
|Amazon Fire TV Cube||✓|
|Amazon Fire Tablet||✓|
|Android mobile devices||✓|
|Android TV (select models)||✓|
|Chromecast (select models)||✓|
|iOS mobile devices||✓|
|LG TV Smart TVs (select models)||✗|
|Roku devices (select models)||✓|
|Samsung Smart TVs (select models)||✓|
|VIZIO SmartCast TV (select models)||✓|
|Windows 10 phones and tablets||✓|
We tested CBS All Access on the Amazon Fire Stick, the Xbox One, a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone, and through the Firefox browser on a desktop PC running Windows 8.1.
Everything ran fairly well, but we did run into some problems on the Fire Stick.
While attempting to stream movies on the Fire Stick one day, the list of films suddenly doubled in size. No additional titles were added; it just duplicated thumbnails that appeared in random order.
Playing any of the films resulted in the UVP-1011 error, which we learned is one of nine different problems that may occur with CBS All Access. Another problem involves too many users trying to watch popular programs like Star Trek: Discovery or the Super Bowl.
This article, from January 2019, is worth a peek because it offers fixes for common CBS All Access errors and glitches across various devices.
Best streaming devices
Your image could always be sharper.
|CBS All Access package||Video resolution|
You want the sharpest image? Well, like with most other streaming apps, you’re lookin’ at 720p. That assumes your internet connection will support HD. At slower speeds, Picard is gonna look pretty pixelated.
What’s that? Frame rate? Oh, yeah. We wondered the same thing since frame rate isn’t in the CBS All Access FAQ—or anywhere online that we could see. We asked a CBS representative, and after speaking with an engineer, they confirmed that All Access streams at 60 frames per second.
That’s good to know, considering all of the sports content the service offers. You’ll see that NCAA player’s wheels turning in detail, and make out more rebound action under NCAA nets.
Having issues with your stream?
After a ZIP code check, you’ll see which Internet Service Providers in your area offer the fastest speeds at the best prices.
A channel guide should be informative, easy to read and a cinch to navigate. This is a case where two out of three is bad.
CBS All Access live TV schedule on a desktop computer.
For one thing, it’s incomplete, showing only what airs from 8:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m., one day at a time. Come on, now—that’s past gram-gram’s bedtime. And what if we’re night owls or insomniacs that actually like infomercials? Sigh–at least it’s easy to read and navigate.
CBS All Access live TV guide viewed on a Samsung Galaxy S8.
The mobile app’s guide is still light on information, but it sticks to the traditional guide format. The big difference here is that you can view multiple days at once.
It’s viewable only in portrait mode, though, so you’ll need to swipe left in order to see more than 90 minutes of upcoming programming at a time. It’s still a slightly better layout than the desktop version, so that’s a rare win for mobile users.
CBS All Access on-demand guide viewed on a desktop PC.
The on-demand guide is much better. It allows you to sort alphabetically or by category. Depending on the category, you’ll still have to sort through a bunch of stuff you’re not interested in, but at least it exists. A watchlist feature would go a long way here.
- Limited Commercials plan
- Commercial Free plan
CBS All Access offers two plans: one that limits commercials and one that is free of them. You’ll still have to watch ads when streaming live TV, and they’re not skippable.
Compared with full-scale livestreaming services, CBS All Access doesn’t stack up due to price, redundant content, and unreliability. It does, however, make a decent add-on to whatever you use as your main streaming service. You can binge-watch some of your favorite series, then drop it.
That being said, if you don’t see anything interesting on their roster, you might just pass.
CBS All Access FAQ
Can I create a watchlist in CBS All Access?
Unfortunately, you can’t create a watchlist in CBS All Access. But you will be able to track where you are in a series by the status bars under each episode or movie’s thumbnail.
Is CBS All Access available as an add-on through other services?
Yes, you can subscribe to the CBS All Access app through Amazon Prime Video.