How to Use CBS All Access

Cheap TV service isn't that hard to get

CBS All Access
CBS All Access lets you watch your live local CBS channel at home or on the go. Mario Gutiérrez / Moment / Getty

CBS All Access is a single-network streaming service that allows cord-cutters to watch live television without a cable subscription. Unlike most other streaming services, it only offers content from CBS. It's also one of the only places you can watch CBS online, and it is the only place anywhere that you can watch exclusive content like Star Trek: Discovery.

In order to use CBS All Access, you need a high speed internet connection and a compatible device. The easiest options are to watch on your computer with your favorite web browser, or on your phone, but CBS All Access also supports devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. You can also cast CBS All Access from your phone to your TV from Android or from iOS.

CBS All Access technically competes with other live television streaming services, like Sling TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Now, but on a smaller scale. While those services provide dozens, or even hundreds, of channels, with a price tag to match, CBS All Access is only CBS.

While only having content from CBS does set All Access apart from multi-channel streaming services, it's important to note that CBS has a massive library of shows. For instance, you can watch the entire run of shows like Cheers, and every Star Trek series, on CBS All Access. While those shows originally aired on other networks, CBS is the one that owns them.

The weak point of most live television streaming services is local network television, which is usually only available in a handful of limited markets. This is where CBS All Access is unique, since it's available in 180+ markets across the United States. So if you're having trouble finding an online streaming service that can provide you with a local network, there's a good chance that CBS All Access will have coverage where you live. 

In addition to your local CBS affiliate, All Access also provides a stream of CBSN, which is CBS's 24/7 live news channel.

How to Sign up for CBS All Access

how to sign up for cbs all access
Signing up for CBS All Access is pretty quick, and there is a free trial option. Screenshots.

CBS All Access is very easy to sign up for, and it includes a free trial period. You do have to enter your billing information, but you won't be charged if you decide to cancel before the trial period ends.

To sign up for CBS All Access:

  1. Navigate to www.cbs.com/all-access/.
  2. Click Try It Free.
  3. Enter your information and choose a password.
  4. Read the terms of use, privacy police and video services policy, and then click the check box if you agree.
  5. Click Sign Up.
  6. Select a plan, enter your billing information, and click Start CBS All Access.
    Note: you won't be charged as long as the subtotal amount on this screen shows $0.00, but you will be charged at the end of the trial period if you don't cancel first.
  7. Click Select Your Device if you want to set up a streaming device, or click on an episode to start watching on your computer.

Choosing a CBS All Access Plan

cbs all access plans
There are only two CBS All Access plans, and both include the same content. Screenshot.

There are two plans available from CBS All Access, and the only difference between them is the amount of commercials that you have to sit through.

The cheaper CBS All Access plan includes commercials embedded in on demand videos, while the commercial free version removes them. However, even if you pay for the commercial free version of All Access, the commercials are not removed from the live CBS stream.

The other difference between the two plans is that if you choose the ad free version, the free trial is shorter.

If you decide that you would rather have the ad free version, or switch back to the version that has ads, you can do so at any time after you subscribe.

How Many Shows Can You Watch at the Same Time on CBS All Access?
When you watch a show on CBS All Access, whether it's on the live feed or an on demand episode, it's referred to as a stream. CBS limits the number of these streams that can be active at any one time, so even if you have All Access on multiple devices, there's a limit to how many you can use at once.

CBS All Access allows two streams at once, and those streams apply to all the devices you own and to any type of video you stream.

That means you can watch a live stream of your local CBS affiliate on your computer at the same time someone else uses the same account to cast an on demand episode to your television.

However, a third person would be unable to watch either live or on demand content at the same time on a third device of any kind. You can mix and match devices, and live or on demand content, but you're always limited to two streams at once.

How Fast Does Your Internet Need to Be to Watch CBS All Access?
CBS All Access requires a high speed internet connection, and the quality of the video will vary depending on the speed of your connection.

The minimum speeds that CBS recommends for All Access are:

  • 800+ Kbps to stream on a mobile device.
  • 1.5+ Mbps to stream live television or on demand video to a computer or a device like Amazon Fire TV or Roku.
  • 4+ Mbps to stream Big Brother Live feeds.
    Note: Big Brother Live uses four simultaneous video streams, which requires more bandwidth than usual.

Does CBS All Access Offer Any Options or Special Features?

cbs all access add ons
You can add Showtime to your CBS All Access subscription. Screenshot.

While CBS All Access is technically a single-network streaming service, it does offer the option to add Showtime content for an additional fee. This is likely due to the fact that CBS owns Showtime, which makes the addition of premium Showtime content to CBS All Access a natural fit.

How to Watch Live Television on CBS All Access

watch live tv on cbs all access
CBS All Access lets you watch your local CBS station or CBSN. Screenshot.

The main focus of CBS All Access is providing an online feed of your local CBS station, which means you can use the service to watch CBS on your computer, phone, or even on your television with the right hardware.

To watch live television on CBS All Access:

  1. Navigate to CBS.com.
  2. Move your mouse over Live TV.
  3. Click on CBS (Local Station) to watch your local CBS channel, or CBSN (24/7 News) to watch a live feed of CBSN.

    Note: while the video player has a pause button when you watch CBS All Access on your computer, you can't pause live television with the service.

Does CBS All Access Have On Demand or a DVR?

cbs all access on demand and exclusives
CBS All Access includes a selection of on demand episodes, including exclusives like Star Trek: Discovery. Screenshots.

While the main focus of CBS All Access is live television, it does include a selection of on demand content. The selection is limited to the current season for most shows that are still on the air, but full seasons, and even full series, are available for some older shows.

In addition to current series and older shows, CBS All Access also has some exclusive content. For instance, the only place you can watch Star Trek: Discovery is on CBS All Access. The Good Fight, which is a spin off of The Good Wife, is also exclusive to All Access.

To watch an on demand television show or movie on CBS All Access:

  1. Navigate to cbs.com.
  2. Move your mouse cursor over shows to reveal a list of available series, and then click on the one you want to watch.
  3. Click start watching to immediately jump into the show, or scroll down and click on a specific episode that you want to watch.

    Note: you can pause on demand content, and if you leave and come back, it will pick up where you left off. You can also effectively fast forward by clicking on the video timeline, but if you try and skip past a commercial, the commercial will play automatically.

CBS All Access doesn't have a digital video recorder (DVR) feature, so the only way to watch a show you missed is to wait for it to appear in the on demand section.

Can You Rent Movies on CBS All Access?

movies on cbs all access
You can't rent movies on CBS All Access, but the service does have a selection of free on demand movies. Screenshot.

Some live television streaming services also provide pay-per-view and rental content, but CBS All Access doesn't. There is a selection of free on demand movies available, and you get access to more if you add Showtime to your subscription.

If you're looking to rent a recent release, you can do so through non-subscription services like Vudu, Amazon, and many other online sources.

Was this page helpful?