Paramount+ and the lure of long-term commitments

The launch of Paramount+ is still a few weeks away, but ViacomCBS would really like to lock you and other cord-cutters into its streaming service right now.

To that end, the company is offering half-priced annual subscriptions to CBS All Access (using the code PARAMOUNTPLUS), bringing the first-year price to $30 for the ad-supported version and $50 for the version with limited commercials. When CBS All Access rebrands as Paramount+ on March 4, those discounted subscriptions will automatically carry over to the new service.

ViacomCBS isn’t alone in trying to hook cost-conscious customers with long-term subscriptions. Once a rarity in the streaming world, these types of deals have become increasingly common as cord-cutters realize they can simply cycle through streaming services instead of keeping them all year round.

That’s not to say you should necessarily make the commitment. While multi-month or annual streaming subscriptions can sometimes work in your favor, they can also leave you on the hook even after you’ve run out of things to watch. Before you sign onto a long-term streaming subscription, it pays to consider whether the savings will really add up.

Do the math

Many annual subscriptions follow the same basic formula: In exchange for buying a year of service up front, you effectively get a couple of those months for free.

Disney+, for instance, currently charges $7 per month or $70 per year, which means you’re saving $14 per year with the annual subscription. NBC charges $5 per month or $50 per year for the ad-supported version of Peacock Premium, and $10 per month or $100 per year for the ad-free version. CBS All Access normally charges $6 per month or $60 per year for its ad-supported service, or $10 per month or $100 per year for the ad-free version.

In all cases, you’re getting 12 months for the price of 10 with an annual subscription. The question, then, is whether you can live without these services for more than a couple months of the year.

In most cases, you probably can. These newer services generally have much smaller catalogs than the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, and the coronavirus has further complicated their ability to roll out original content. And while Peacock and Paramount+ are trying to keep customers hooked with live sports, the most popular sporting events remain tied to big pay TV bundles.

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