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Will Paramount Plus Be Offered as an Apple TV Channel?

Apple TV Channels
Apple TV Channels offers Showtime and other streaming services. (Image credit: Apple)

Is Paramount Plus going to be repackaged and resold through the respective “channels” businesses of Amazon, Apple and Roku, or will it successfully gain direct-to-consumer independence on these company’s OTT device platforms, just as Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max have?

ViacomCBS, which is planning a full download of Paramount Plus details on Feb. 24, hasn’t spilled the beans. But tech blog 9to5 Mac seems to be predicting which way the wind will blow. 

“Although not officially confirmed by either Apple or Viacom at this stage, it doesn’t seem like Paramount Plus will be offered as an Apple TV Channel inside the TV app,” 9to5 Mac reported. “This means customers will instead have to download a third-party ‘Paramount+’ app from the App Store to access CBS content going forward.” 

The report follows the scuttling of an Apple TV Channels promotion, kicked off in August, that gave the Apple TV app’s users the ability to subscribe to the ad-free version of CBS All Access (standalone priced at $9.99 a month) and Showtime ($10.99) for a bargain price of just $9.99. It was one of the better bargains in the streaming business. 

ViacomCBS is getting ready to replace CBS All Access with the bigger, broader, ostensibly better Paramount Plus on March 4. It’s a transition similar to the one WarnerMedia pulled off last year, when it added content from the broader Time Warner assets purchased by parent company AT&T to HBO Now and rebranded the service as HBO Max

WarnerMedia had difficulty extracting HBO from Roku Channels and Amazon Prime Video Channels. By some estimates, more than half of all HBO Now subscriptions originated from Prime Video Channels, and Amazon was said to be reluctant to lose a relationship that gave it a significant revenue cut, not to mention control of user data. 

HBO Max launched May 27 but didn’t get support as a standalone app on Amazon’s Fire TV platform until November. It didn’t get support for Roku until December. That stunted growth for HBO Max. 

As of the end of the third quarter last year, only 8.6 million of around 38 million total U.S. HBO subscribers had upgraded to the new “Max” experience. That number has now surpassed 17 million, with HBO Max now on the two biggest connected-TV platforms. 

Can we infer what will happen with Roku and Amazon based on what Apple does? Questionable.

The pricey Apple TV device is used in only about 2% of U.S. connected TV living rooms, according to Strategy Analytics research published last year. Apple untethered the Apple TV app from the Apple TV device last year, allowing it to run on both Roku and Fire TV, among other gadget platforms.

At least in terms of OTT device ecosystems, Apple probably has less leverage to keep ViacomCBS confined to Apple TV Channels, as users of the top OTT device ecosystems, Roku and Fire TV, have other ways of getting Paramount Plus.

Notably, both Disney Plus and HBO Max debuted as standalone apps on Apple TV. Apple simply removed HBO from Apple TV Channels in May of last year. 

Those who signed up for the CBS All Access/Showtime bundle have been unaffected by Apple’s move so far, 9to5 Mac reports. It’s unclear what will happen once the March 4 transition occurs. 

Apple TV Channels still allows users to purchase apps including Epix, Acorn TV and AMC Plus. But that offer is getting more and more niche as media conglomerates pull the bigger apps.