CBS Stumbles in Super Bowl Push for Streaming Subscribers

    • CBS hit a snag in its mission to elevate CBS All Access when the streaming service crashed during the opening minutes of the Super Bowl.
    • ViacomCBS has lagged behind other major networks in the streaming wars, reporting just under 18 million paid subscribers to CBS All Access and Showtime OTT.

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CBS was not ready for its own Super Bowl blitz. 

The network sought to leverage the massive viewership from Super Bowl LV to draw attention to its streaming service — which is rebranding from CBS All Access to Paramount+ — devoting significant ad time to it during the game.

Viewers who attempted to watch the Big Game kickoff on CBS All Access were met with an error message, however, until those technical difficulties were resolved in the first quarter. 

The streaming wars are in full swing among the major networks, as cord cutting rapidly becomes the norm.

  • Peacock, Comcast-owned NBCUniversal’s streaming service, launched last July and reached 33 million subscribers by the end of 2020. NBCU is shutting down cable sports network NBCSN at the end of the year, partly to focus on boosting streaming offerings.
  • Disney, which owns ABC, reported over 120 million subscribers as of Oct. 3 between its three principle streaming services, Disney+ (73.7 million), Hulu (36.6 million) and ESPN+ (10.3 million). ESPN+ experienced issues of its own during January’s UFC 257. 
  • ViacomCBS lagged behind those two at the end of the third quarter, reporting just under 18 million paid subscribers to CBS All Access and Showtime OTT.

Sports and other live events are losing their ability to keep cable subscribers engaged as streaming services edge into the market. 

Streaming now accounts for 68% of all U.S. TV watching, and only 30% of cable subscribers say that live sports are a reason to keep their service — a steep drop from 60% nine months ago.