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Paramount Plus Essential vs Premium: Differences Compared (& Explained)

Essential and Premium are more alike than different, but there are enough differences to make choosing between the Paramount+ plans easier.

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The Paramount Plus Essential and Premium plans are very similar, but there are also enough differences to make choosing between them easier. With differences in the monthly price, the ads, and even the content available, individuals and households shouldn’t find it too difficult to decide which plan is best for their particular needs.

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Paramount+ launched in early 2021 and brings together content from a variety of channels including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Smithsonian Channel. All of which makes Paramount+ very different to Paramount Network. With so many shows and movies from so many popular channels on offer, the service can be a great addition to a home’s streaming setup.

The first and probably main difference to take into consideration is the price. The Paramount+ Essential plan costs $4.99 per month, while the Paramount+ Premium plan costs $9.99 each month. Regardless of the plan chosen, both come with a free trial and consumers have the option of saving 16% on the overall cost by signing up to one of the annuals plans. If opting for a yearly subscription, the Essential plan costs $49.99 for twelve months, while the Premium plan costs $99.99 for twelve months.

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For consumers simply looking to save the most on the monthly cost, then the Essential plan is going to be the best option. However, there are compromises with the cheaper plan that potential subscribers should know about before signing up.

Essential vs Premium comparison:

EssentialPremium
$4.99 p/m$9.99 p/m
Unlimited accessUnlimited access
AdsNo ads
No local CBSLocal CBS included
Free trial availableFree trial available

The CBS difference explained

Both the Essential and Premium plans include CBS content. If access to popular shows from CBS is important then either plan will work, thanks to Essential coming with the exact same on-demand CBS content as the Premium plan. However, where they do differ is in terms of live CBS content.

Paramount+ offers Premium subscribers the option to watch their local live CBS station, and this is one of the primary differences between the two plans. If an individual or household wants to watch live CBS on their devices, then the Premium plan will be the best option. Recently, Paramount+ introduced a Live Channels feature which does add some live programming to both plans. However, these are curated channels, not traditional live TV channels.

For reference, Paramount+ used to offer a ‘Limited Commercials’ plan, but that has since been replaced with the current Essential plan. Although priced just $1 more than the Essential plan, the Limited Commercials subscription did also include access to local live CBS stations. Those still subscribed to the Limited Commercials plan continue to have access to their local live channel providing they don’t cancel their Paramount+ subscription. For all new customers, however, they are now forced to make the choice of whether they want access to local live CBS by choosing between the two plans when signing up.

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The ads difference explained

For many, ads are likely to be one of the main reason to consider paying for the more expensive subscription. At present, the Premium plan is the only way to get an ad-free viewing experience on Paramount+. Therefore, any individuals or households that do want to skip the commercials will need to go with the Premium plan at $9.99 per month, or $99.99 per year.

However, Paramount+ does not offer a completely ad-free experience even with the Premium plan. There are two main reasons for this and the first is pretty simple to understand. As the Premium plan does include access to local CBS, and these stations are shown live, there is no option to skip the commercials. Even though the user is paying for an ad-free experience, local CBS channels are streamed live, as are the ads.

The second reason might be a little harder to understand and especially considering the subscriber is paying for a commercial-free experience. Basically, Premium subscribers are subjected to what Paramount+ refers to as “brief promotional interruptions” while streaming shows and movies. The service doesn’t explain why it serves these interruptions to ad-free customers, but does state that they are specifically designed to advertise “new and upcoming Paramount+ programming.” So, while a consumer won’t necessarily see ads for other products and services while watching, they are likely to see commercials for Paramount+.

Essential vs Premium summary

Paramount+ offers an Essential and a Premium plan with the main differences being the price, access to local CBS stations, and an ad-free viewing experience. However, these are not set in stone differences, with ads occasionally shown to Premium subscribers being a prime example. Unless paying for an annual subscription, consumers are free to cancel Paramount+ or switch between the plans if they feel the Essential or Premium plan is not right for them or their household’s needs.

For those that want to keep the cost as low as possible, and don’t need access to their local live CBS channel, then there is no need to pay more than the $4.99 each month for the Essential subscription. The cheaper plan will also include commercials, but even Premium subscribers are occasionally served ads as well. For those that want the best experience Paramount+ has to offer, the Premium plan is the one to go for.

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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