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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Paramount+ comes down under
What should you expect from the upcoming Australian launch of Paramount Plus?
It's what everybody has been demanding: another streaming service.
Here's a quick guide to what you need to know (and some deeper thoughts on the service at the end of the article):
When does it launch?
It starts streaming in Australia from August 11.
What's the price?
A very reasonable $8.99 a month.
What do you get on it?
Paramount+ is expected to have 20,000 episodes and movies throughout the year. When it (re)launched in the US back in March, it promised 30,000+ TV shows and 2500 movies. There's also no break-out mention of just how many movies will be in the local library. So, we will be getting a cut down service in some regards (but it is better in others - more on that in a moment).
The TV shows and movies will come from old-school cable channels like MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, and Showtime. Plus there will be content from CBS and the Paramount movie library.
What titles can we expect?
Announced are Australian originals Five Bedrooms (season 2) and new shows: Spreadsheet, Last King of The Cross, and 6 Festivals.
Other new titles include: The First Lady, Dexter (a revival series), The Gilded Age (made for HBO), Yellowjackets, Leonardo, American Rust, Two Weeks To Live, Coyote, Mayor of Kingstown, Everyone is Doing Great, Spy City, Monsterland, The Luminaries, The Harper House, Guilty Party, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Some of those titles are more interesting than others - the ones to keep your eye out for are The First Lady, an anthology series set in the US white house which boasts a monster cast including Viola Davis, Gillian Anderson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Aaron Eckhart, and Dakota Fanning. Mayor of Kingstown has Jeremy Renner returning to TV. And The Man Who Fell To Earth (a remake of the Bowie film, but starring the excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris, and Rob Delaney.
Also mentioned in the media release are a number of series that won't be made for some time: Lioness, Halo, The Offer, Y:1883, Flatbush Misdemeanors, Stephen, Crossing Swords, Help, No Return, Line In The Sand, and Ripley, along with documentaries, Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell? and Four Hours at the Capitol.
Of those - get excited for the long-in-development Halo (which is a series based on the XBox video game), Y:1883 (a prequel to Yellowstone set in 1883), and the Tom Ripley TV series Ripley.
Why might the Aussie/international version be better than the US version?
In Australia we get the Showtime shows bundled into Paramount+. Up until December last year, all the Showtime TV series were available on local streaming service Stan. These include current shows like Billions, Black Monday, The Circus, The L Word: Generation Q, and more. Those shows will still be available on Stan. But new shows from Showtime going forward will be on Paramount+.
Showtime series have traditionally been the poor cousin to HBO and FX, but over the last few years the overall quality of their shows has improved significantly.
Will there be movies?
Oh god, yes. Announced titles include: The Godfather, Mission: Impossible, Indiana Jones, Transformers, Jackass, Grease, Good Will Hunting, Harry Potter, Batman, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
The promise of Paramount+ is better than the media release suggests. Having played with the US version of the service, the value of it is with its deep library of older library titles. What makes Paramount+ different to most of the other streamers is the classic and long-forgotten shows on there that you haven't seen on streaming before: The Love Boat, Taxi, Mission: Impossible, Cheers, Family Ties, Aeon Flux, The Sarah Silverman Program, Detroiters, Clone High, Wonder Showzen, etc.
Hearing that there'll be 10,000 less shows on Paramount+ in Australia vs what's available in the US may mean that the deep library of older shows simply may not be there. That would be really disappointing.
There's also a great opportunity with Paramount+ to bring to the Australian market studio-based shows that can live on a streaming service, but haven't traditionally made sense for a broadcast schedule - daytime game shows from CBS like Let's Make a Deal and the Drew Carey-led The Price is Right. Chat shows like The Talk. And night time chat like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden - both released in line with US broadcast and not as late night releases or the next day.
There's a lot of competition for attention in the market right now. Paramount+ is bordering close to deserving its $8.99 per month price-tag, but it isn't quite there just yet. In the US, ViacomCBS chief Bob Bakish has told investors that the company will not be on-selling its big titles elsewhere, keeping them for Paramount+. The company needs to keep that attitude globally. If big drawcards like new Star Trek series and its upcoming plans to have a new movie on Paramount+ every week aren't carried through internationally, a local launch of Paramount+ will be dead in the water.
I'm also curious about the potential launch of Pluto TV in Australia.
Right now, everything seems promising enough. I'm happy to scale the mountain of content.
Let's see what August delivers.
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