Why I Canceled CBS All Access

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Last night I signed up for the 7-day free trial of CBS All Access to see the second episode of the new Star Trek Discovery. I’ve been meaning to give CBS All Access a try, and this was a good time. However, I canceled today. Although I thought the production values of the new Star Trek series were the best yet, equal to the latest ST films, I just didn’t want to watch a limited series about the war with Klingons. Nor did I want to subscribe to a premium streaming service with commercials. And it annoyed me that we’d only see four episodes this year, and then have to wait to watch the rest next year.


I did learn:

  • I hate paying for streaming shows that have commercials. Both CBS All Access and Hulu offer to exclude commercials for extra bucks but that’s annoying considering Netflix charges less, has more to watch, and is commercial-free for all users.
  • I don’t like streaming series that are dribbled out. I joined Hulu to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and they stretched it out over weeks. I like the way Netflix provides all the episodes at once. TV worth watching has to be binge-able.
  • I’m disappointed that Star Trek has become an adventure story, rather than being idea driven. What made the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation great were their creative individual episodes. Modern Star Treks don’t do stories like “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Trouble with Tribbles,” or “The Inner Light.”
  • I can only support so many paid streaming services. Netflix and Amazon Prime are great deals, offering an abundance of shows I want to see. Hulu and CBS All Access have little I want to watch. I couldn’t find anything on CBS All Access to see after watching the second Star Trek Discovery episode. I expected it to have a zillion old CBS shows. It didn’t. If CBS All Access had more shows I would subscribe if it was free with commercials or pay $1.99/month for its current selection of shows without commercials, and maybe $2.99 if it had more shows like Northern Exposure and Joan of Arcadia.
  • Every broadcast or cable network can’t expect to create a paid streaming network. I’m happy with Netflix and Amazon Prime, and sometimes I buy Hulu for a couple of months. However, Hulu rarely has a show I want to watch. If The Handmaid’s Tale had been a DVD set or a digital series to buy for $20 I would have been happier.
  • I doubt I’ll be tempted to subscribe to a new streaming service in the future just because of one show. CBS used that trick very effectively with the new Star Trek, but I can’t imagine it will succeed again in the future. If they offered 5-10 original series every month, it would be different. Netflix always seems to have another binge-worthy show coming out.
  • I doubt I’ll ever subscribe to a streaming service again that charges extra to be commercial free.



5 thoughts on “Why I Canceled CBS All Access”

  1. It was from the first, an ill-thought-out idea that has failed spectacularly, unfortunately, the show will suffer because of it. To say nothing of the vast audience outside their insular little world.

  2. I was underwhelmed by the new STAR TREK. One episode was enough. As you point out, it’s not idea driven. It lacks the “Sense of Wonder” that made the previous STAR TREK series so compelling. And watching Klingons bunch up and reading subtitles of their conversations killed whatever little buzz that first episode generated.

  3. This is one of those cases where commercial services actually need more consolidation, at least from a consumer point of view. One Stream to rule them all, as it were. Is there any reason beyond greed and business culture why all extant digital media (film, music, maybe even print) should not be catalogued and available under one umbrella service, with revenues distributed according to popularity, a la ASCAP or the BBC TV tax? Hopefully with a flat user subscription/tax on the other end, but even a tiered system would be better than what exists now. I guess you’d have to figure out who actually keeps the servers up and running. Maybe it would even be feasible to keep game servers alive as part of the deal.

    An arrangement like this shouldn’t have to mean monopoly or even consolidation on the production side and THEY already have ways to know who is watching what. It should also be possible to make some allowance for production costs in figuring out revenue distribution. Of course I’m sure there’s some scenario for turning this concept into a monster. Definitely it should be non-profit in structure.

    A somewhat comparable major change in media distribution happened when movie studios were forced to divest themselves of their theatre chains. Supposedly that ruling is what killed the studio system, but I wonder…

    1. I think everyone wants to be the next Netflix, but they just don’t have the content. Amazon has a lot, but not nearly as much as Netflix. Hulu has a vast amount of content, but most of it is dreck that only people under 30 could like. As people abandon cable those content providers want a replacement revenue stream. However, it seems strange to me that CBS who probably got paid less than a dollar per user under the cable system would expect to get $6-10 per user on their own via the streaming system.

      I don’t mind paying $15-20 a season for a good binge-worthy show. Would CBS make more money that way, selling it directly to fans? If CBS had put Star Trek Discovery on Amazon Video to buy for $16 I probably would have bought it sight unseen. But making me dribble out $40-50 bucks with CBS All Access seems unfair.

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