After more than four decades on cable TV at HBO (1977-February 2008) and Showtime (September 2008-present), Inside The NFL is moving to a digital streaming service. Unsurprisingly, that streaming service is Paramount+ (Paramount+ is the upcoming March 4 rebrand and expansion of CBS All-Access from ViacomCBS, the parent corporation of Showtime). The move was announced as part of a ViacomCBS media call Wednesday about the Paramount+ rebranding and the new programming that will be available there. Here’s more on that from CNN’s Frank Pallotta:
Paramount+ will launch in the US and Latin America with a slew of content from the company’s biggest brands. That includes more than 30,000 episodes and movies from Paramount Pictures, CBS, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET and MTV, as well as live programming such as sports and news — a rarity in the streaming space.
Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom, said at the event that Paramount+ will lean heavily into scripted dramas, reality TV and children’s programming. That includes debuts of 36 original series over its first year.
“Paramount+ comes to the marketplace with real advantages that our competitors do not have,” Bakish said. “As you’ve seen from our marketing campaign, we have a mountain of entertainment… How big is that mountain? As you’ll see today, it’s a lot bigger than you think.”
CBS Chief George Cheeks added that two iconic series will joining Paramount+. “Inside the NFL,” which takes football fans behind the scenes of the gridiron, will be exclusive to the service. Also, a version of “60 Minutes,” the popular news magazine, will be on the service called “60 Minutes+.
Inside The NFL currently features James Brown, Phil Simms, Brandon Marshall, and Ray Lewis, a cast it’s had since 2019. It started on HBO in 1977 with Al Meltzer and Chuck Bednarik, who were replaced by Merle Harmon and Len Dawson in 1978. Harmon left in 1980 and was replaced by Nick Buonoconti, who would host with Dawson from 1980-2001 (with Cris Collinsworth joining first as a reporter in 1989, then as a full third host in 1990, and with several others serving as guest hosts). In 2002, Bob Costas took over as host with Collinsworth, Dan Marino, and Cris Carter as co-hosts. But after the 2007-08 NFL season, HBO cancelled the show; it wound up on Showtime for the 2008-09 season with Brown, Collinsworth, Simms and Warren Sapp, and it’s been on Showtime since (with some personnel changes, including Marshall joining in 2014 while still an active player, Boomer Esiason serving as an analyst from 2014-2018, Greg Gumbel and then Adam Schein taking Brown’s spot for two years thanks to CBS’ Thursday Night Football commitments, and Lewis joining in 2017). So it’s certainly a storied franchise, and it’s notable to see it moving to streaming-only.
This is a move that probably makes some sense for all sides, though. Yes, Paramount+ currently has less subscribers than Showtime. Palotta’s piece above says that ViacomCBS currently has a combined 30 million streaming subscribers globally and 19 million in the U.S. for CBS All-Access and Showtime’s own over-the-top streaming service, while Showtime was estimated to have 20 million cable subscribers in November of last year (plus an estimated 7 million subscribers to their OTT service, which would be part of that 19 million figure above).
But that gulf isn’t huge, and those numbers are before the launch of Paramount+ with its extensive film libraries and new originals. It seems likely the new service will be bigger than cable Showtime before too long, and this lets ViacomCBS promote Inside The NFL as something to attract new subscribers to Paramount+. And with Paramount+ going for $4.99 (ad-supported) to $9.99 a month (ad-free) at launch, there isn’t a huge dollar barrier here for those who really care about Inside The NFL. (There of course are technical hurdles with streaming versus cable, and Paramount+ is competing in a crowded streaming marketplace, but on the whole, this doesn’t feel like it will be accessible to less people than it was on cable Showtime.)
At any rate, it’s notable to see an established franchise like Inside The NFL on the move again, and to see it cited as one of the existing series Paramount+ will feature at launch. We’ll see how its move to streaming-only works out.