Paramount+ has a tall mountain to climb

When Trevor Noah took the stage at ViacomCBS’ investor event Wednesday afternoon to announce his own streaming service, Trevor+ — “My plus sign could mean anything!” he said — I was almost ready to believe him.

Of course, it was meant to be a joke, a way to highlight that Noah’s “Daily Show” will stream on Paramount+, the new service that was actually being unveiled at the event. But the idea of yet another service seemed not completely out of the question. And that may ultimately be a big problem for Noah’s bosses.

First things first: some details. Paramount+ is launching on March 4, succeeds CBS All Access and will cost $9.99 per month. The company plans to launch an ad-supported tier with a slightly smaller content bundle for half that price in June, and also aims to go live in Latin America and Canada on day one.

  • There will be a mountain of content, as executives repeatedly stressed throughout the event. (Get it?) Paramount+ will feature more than 30,000 TV episodes, and the company is looking to launch 36 original series this year. There will also be a bunch of movies, including “Mission Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place 2,” which will arrive on the service 45 days after debuting in theaters. Paramount+ will also have tons of kids’ content, courtesy of Nickelodeon, as well as news, comedy, documentaries and reality TV.
  • Oh, and sports: CBS boss George Cheeks said Wednesday that sports had been the No. 1 driver for new subscriptions to the company’s CBS All Access service, which is why it is now doubling down on sports content for its successor. Paramount+ will stream the PGA Tour, March Madness, the NFL, UEFA soccer matches, U.S. Women’s Soccer and more.

But there are rather a lot of caveats, just in case that all sounds too unbelievably wonderful:

  • In a departure from CBS All Access, that cheaper $5 Paramount+ tier won’t offer access to live feeds from local CBS stations.
  • Paramount+ will have some BET content, but ViacomCBS will continue to operate BET+ as a separate streaming service going forward. The same is true for Showtime, which will also operate as a standalone service. The company did promise to offer bundles for customers that want access to Paramount+, BET+ and Showtime.
  • Oh, and ViacomCBS will also keep free, ad-supported services like CBSN and Pluto, which will presumably get a bunch of those Paramount+ shows at some point down the line.

Confused? I doubt you’re alone. Watching Wednesday’s presentation, I couldn’t help but wonder how this pitch will fare with consumers who already have tons of stuff to watch.

  • ViacomCBS isn’t alone in running multiple streaming services. Disney for instance has Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. However, each of them have a unique value proposition. Disney+ is for kids and family, Hulu has some of the edgier stuff for older audiences and ESPN+ is obviously all about sports.
  • Paramount+ on the other hand is… well, a mountain of content. Lots of great stuff for sure, and I personally can’t wait for Nickelodeon’s new Avatar Studios to churn out sequels to “The Last Airbender.”
  • But will consumers want to subscribe to yet another service whose brand doesn’t really communicate why anyone needs it? Will they dip in and out of Paramount+ to catch a few shows here and there? Will the service effectively compete against Showtime for a limited amount of time, attention and dollars?

ViacomCBS has its work cut out to refine the messaging for Paramount+. Or, you know, it could always launch Trevor+.