CBS All Access launches in Canada, but is it worth it?
Yesterday CBS announced that they have officially launched their CBS All Access service in Canada.
The service is $5.99 Canadian a month.
This is not the first US streaming service to launch into Canada. Previously we have seen Sundance Now, Amazon Prime, AcornTV and Shudder expand into Canada with local versions of their offerings.
CBS is the first of the big US networks to launch here though and that is a fairly big deal as it means that the US services see Canada as a way to expand their subscription base much like Netflix.
So is it worth it for Canadian cord cutters to use this service versus the American version at this point?
It will depend on what you want to watch.
The service itself looks very similar to the US service although there are a few subtle differences design wise.
Here are some other key differences between the US and Canadian version we spotted.
First there is only one price point for the Canadian version, $5.99 Canadian and it remains to be seen if that will include commercials. It’s day two of the service and most likely they don’t have any ads sold for the Canadian market at this point. We didn't get any ads when watching some episodes but we expect that they will show up soon enough.
The US version of the service offers two subscription levels. $5.99 US for the version with commercials and $9.99 US for the version that is commercial free.
The US version of the service also offers some users the ability to watch their local CBS channel live, this feature is not available in the Canadian version.
The other notable difference right off the bat is the library size iteslef.
The Canadian version is rather small at this point, something Canadians are use to unfortunately.
This is not because CBS has something against Canadians or is trying to short change them.
It has everything to do with how licensing works and the fact that CBS has licensed a lot of it’s content to Canadian networks up to this point and those deals will remain in place until they expire.
Bigger shows like the new Star Trek Discovery which Bell owns the right for in Canada and makes available via their CraveTV service are missing on the Canadian version of CBS All Access but if your a Start Trek fan the US version of the service also has all the other Star Trek series.
CBS All Access Canada will also be missing the current season of the CBS series The Good Fight as the licence for that show is owned by the Corus station ‘W Network’ and of course that means that for Canadian cord cutters there are no options to watch that show unless you use the US version of CBS All Access.
Other big primetime shows from CBS like Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Blue Bloods, Survivor and Big Brother are also missing on the Canadian version of the service. Again all of these shows are already licensed to other Canadian networks.
CBS also has a fairly big lineup of daytime television that is notably missing from the Canadian service as well. I'm sure soap fans would pay the $5.99 Canadian to have access to The Young and the Restless or The Bold and the Beautiful. Both which have a lot of episodes available on the US service but not the Canadian version.
The good news is that if you want to catch up on the CBS show Elementary the Canadian version has all 5 season where the US version of the service has none of the episodes available.
The Canadian version has some of CBS’s late night content available like the last 2-3 weeks episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but absent from the Canadian service are any episodes of The Late Late Show with James Corden. The US version of the service offers the same amount of episodes of the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but also offers 149 episodes of the Late Late Show with James Corden.
Even with the back catalogue of older shows the Canadian version of the service is light. Sure you can watch Season 2 of Happy Days or the first two seasons of the Love Boat. There is also 8 seasons of Wings and 7 Seasons of Melrose Place. Most of this and more is on the US service as well though.
As more US streaming services follow CBS’s lead and move into Canada consumers here will see this familiar scenario play out. With many US shows and movie licences being owned by Canadian companies any US services that launches here will have limited libraries until those licence deals expire or unless they renegotiate them with the Canadian networks. This will frustrate many Canadian cord cutters because most of the Canadian providers don’t do anything in the streaming space with their content beyond putting a small number of episodes up on their website.
At this point if you are a Canadian cord cutter a free trial of the CBS All Access Canadian offering may be in order if there is a specific show on there you want to catch up on, but I don’t see anyone subscribing to this for 3 or 4 months of the year at this point. The library just isn’t diverse or large enough. We’ll see how it continues to grow and evolve.
If you want more bang for your buck and want to avoid commercials you should subscribe to the US service at this point.
I'm sure the library of the Canadian version will continue to grow and we're all for more of the US service to follow suit and launch here in Canada but consumers won't be quick to use the services unless they get access to the same volume of content that the US services have. You may have to wait awhile though.