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Is Paramount Plus free with a cable subscription?

Paramount Plus
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Paramount Plus is the hot new streaming service of 2021, with a huge (and growing!) collection of movies and shows that you've loved for years. It also has a world of new exclusives that you simply can't find anywhere else. 

But one of the biggest questions surrounding the streaming service is this: Is Paramount+ free with a cable subscription? That question is spurred in part by the predecessor to Paramount+ — CBS All Access. As the name implied, CBS All Access was all about things on CBS. So it stood to reason that if you had an existing cable subscription of some sort that included CBS, you'd be able to get in. (Same goes for other live streaming services with CBS.)

MORE: Read our Paramount Plus review

And, indeed, CBS All Access allowed those with one of some three dozen cable or satellite services to log in with those services. If you subscribe to, say, YouTube TV, you could log in with your YouTube TV credentials. Same for Sling TV, FuboTV, AT&T TV, and many others.

The catch was that you'd only get access to a live stream of your local CBS affiliate, and not to the entire CBS All Access on-demand library. So while it was better than nothing, it wasn't a workout to having a full, paid subscription to CBS All Access.

And so that question now extends to Paramount+ after the transition from CBS All Access. Can you log in with an existing cable service and watch the best movies on Paramount+?

The answer is that you cannot. To get into Paramount+, you'll need to pay the full Paramount+ price. And there are two options there: The first is $4.99 a month and includes advertising on the on-demand content, but doesn't have a live stream of your local CBS affiliate. Then there's the ad-free version, which gets rid of advertising on nearly every piece of on-demand content. (With the exception of just a couple series.) It costs $9.99 a month or $99 a year. 

All of that comes after the Paramount+ free trial period.

And if you're a student with a valid university email address, you can save 25 percent off the total, which is fine.

But all is not lost.

How to stream CBS if you don't have a Paramount Plus account

Paramount+ doesn't allow you to stream your local CBS affiliate with cable, satellite or other streaming credential — but you're not totally dead in the water. We reached out to the folks at ViacomCBS to straighten the whole thing out.

You can't stream CBS on Paramount+ if you don't have a Paramount+ subscription.

But you can log in with an existing cable subscription through the CBS app on your favorite platform, and that's how you'll be able to stream your local CBS affiliate on any other device.

So you can still do it — you just can't do it through Paramount+.

Or maybe you just need a VPN?

There is a world of incredible content on Paramount+. And while Paramount+ is expanding from the United States to  other countries worldwide, you might still find that it's unavailable in your part of the world. Too fix that, a VPN might well be the way to fix things.

A virtual private network routes all of your internet traffic through a specific set of servers in a specific country, effectively making it as though your computer were physically in that country as well. So if you're looking to watch the latest Star Trek series but needed to be in, say, the United States in order to do so, a VPN can make that happen without actually having to book a ticket somewhere.

The one catch? You need to be able to trust your VPN provider, because all of your network traffic — encrypted and unencrypted alike — will be going through it. For that, we've long been fans of ExpressVPN.

The best VPN for Paramount+

ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it'll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks, which is always a good thing.

And it's a great VPN to use if you want to ensure you can watch your Paramount+ subscription wherever you are in the world.

Which cable and streaming providers work with the CBS app?

If you have any of the following cable or streaming services, you'll find that you're able to sign in to the CBS website or CBS app and watch your local CBS affiliate. This won't get you in to Paramount+ — just into CBS itself.

Here are the services with which you can access live streams of CBS:

  • AT&T U-verse
  • AT&T TV
  • Altice One
  • Armstrong
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • BendBroadband
  • Blue Ridge Communications
  • Blue Stream
  • Buckeye Broadband
  • Consolidated
  • Cox
  • DirecTV
  • Dish
  • Frontier
  • fuboTV
  • Grande Communications
  • Great Plains Communications
  • Hulu
  • Mediacom
  • Optimum
  • Paul Bunyan Communications
  • RCN
  • Service Electric Broadband Cable
  • Service Electric Cable TV and Communications
  • Service Electric Cablevision
  • Spectrum
  • Suddenlink
  • TDS
  • Vast Broadband
  • Verizon
  • Volcano Vision, Inc.
  • WOW!
  • Wave Broadband
  • Xfinity
  • YouTube TV
  • Ziply Fiber
  • Zito Media
Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of