Yellowstone, the popular cowboy drama on Paramount Network, returned Sunday for its fourth season. The double-episode premiere revealed who survived last year’s cliffhanger finale — an episode that drew the largest audience of all scripted TV shows on cable in 2020. For people who want to catch up on previous seasons or keep up to date with new episodes as they strike, streaming serviceseems to invert the natural place. But counterintuitively, the one TV show most associated with the name Paramount is nowhere to be found on .
If you want to binge Yellowstone’s back catalog you need to go to Paramount Plus rival, which has an exclusive deal to be the only subscription streaming service with the first three seasons. If you want to stream the new episodes of Yellowstone, you should try to unlock the Paramount Network app, not Paramount Plus. And after the fourth season ends, that slew of new Yellowstone episodes will transition to a subscription streaming service — but again, it’ll be Peacock.
As confusing as that is, it’s designed that way. Yellowstone isn’t the only high-profile ViacomCBS title missing from Paramount Plus and streaming elsewhere: If you’re looking for Comedy Central’s South Park, you need to check it out, for example. Content licensing is a big business for ViacomCBS, and so is the revenue generated by a hit show on a traditional cable network like Paramount Network. ViacomCBS has bet that some top-tier programs can make more money — and achieve more eyeballs — if they’re available somewhere other than Paramount Plus, even if it means a major Paramount show like Yellowstone isn’t on Paramount Plus at all. .
Like the rest in the parade of new streaming services, including, HBO Max, , Peacock and , Paramount Plus hopes its particular brew of TV and movies will captivate you with its own vision of the future of TV. But byzantine licensing agreements like ViacomCBS’ for Yellowstone underscore that even when a new service like Paramount Plus is launched by gathering around its own content, it won’t necessarily make it much easier for you to find and watch your favorite shows and movies online. .
Where you can look at yellowstone
The main distinction to understand when it comes to streaming Yellowstone is that Paramount Plus is different from Paramount Network, where Yellowstone premiered its fourth season with two new episodes on Sunday.
On Paramount Plus, you can’t stream Yellowstone – old episodes or new – at all.
Paramount Network is a traditional cable channel available to people who pay for it through a live TV provider. Paramount Network’s shows and movies, including the latest episodes of Yellowstone, are available to stream on the web at primordialnetwork.com or the Paramount Network app. But generally, these are only available to stream to people who already pay for the channel with one of those live TV subscriptions, such as cable, satellite, or any other.like YouTube TV or .
One exception: Paramount has put the first episode of Yellowstone’s fourth season off the paywall, so anyone can stream this episode — titled Half the Money — for free on the Paramount Network app or website. If you want to watch the second episode of the fourth season, titled Phantom Pain, you need to subscribe to pay TV. (, mentioned above, is one of the cheapest online options to access Paramount Network; it also offers a one-week free trial.)
And if you want to stream the rest of Yellowstone’s fourth season episodes as they air, the only place to initially stream them is on the Paramount Network channel, website, or app. And these Yellowstone episodes are only available to stream to “verified” online viewers — that is, people who can log in with their live TV service credentials to prove they’re already paying for Paramount Network.
If you want to binge past seasons of Yellowstone, the Paramount Network app and website have them too.
But if you’re a cord-cutter or otherwise don’t have access to Paramount Network, then you’ll need to head over to Peacock to stream the first three seasons. The fourth season will eventually also appear on Peacock. Peacock hasn’t announced when the fourth season of Yellowstone will be streaming, but you can expect it to end sometime after the season finale on Paramount Network.
So what does Paramount Plus actually have to do with Yellowstone? Ultimately spin-offs. On December 19, Paramount Plus will begin streaming a prequel titled 1883, which focuses on the Dutton family more than a century ago as they head west and establish the Yellowstone Ranch. And on November 14, Paramount Plus premieres Mayor of Kingstown, a drama series co-created by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan; while Mayor of Kingstown is not directly connected to Yellowstone, Paramount Plus presents it as a bit of a spiritual spin-off.
Why you can not watch Yellowstone on Paramount Plus
Each new streaming service launched from Hollywood makes its own judgment about how much and what to keep to itself. Some streaming services have been aggressive to bring their titles back to their own services.
Disney is determined to let its deals expire if they license its shows and movies to other services. That included a major deal that allowed Netflix to stream Disney’s theatrical movies for an estimated $200 million to $300 million a year for four years. But Disney Plus wanted to become a reliable hub for its own back catalog, so Disney let that Netflix deal run out and stopped buying those blockbusters from rival services.
In addition to licensing Yellowstone for its Peacock service, NBCUniversal reclaimed the rights to its own show The Office from Netflix early this year so that Peacock could stream the sitcom exclusively.
And WarnerMedia’s HBO Max has repeatedly reclaimed the rights to all eight Harry Potter films from NBCUniversal and Peacock. WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. licensed all those movies to NBCUniversal years ago in an epic deal. That put NBCUniversal’s Peacock in line to stream them instead of HBO Max. But WarnerMedia has occasionally taken them back, giving it opportunities to boost HBO Max with a popular franchise.
Paramount Plus, however, has not been quite as aggressive, neither in keeping its top-of-the-line properties within its fold, nor in reclaiming the properties it has been licensed elsewhere.
Part of the reason is that licensing titles can be a lucrative business. This year, ViacomCBS has earned $4.6 billion in licenses so far, nearly a quarter of the company’s total revenue. That money comes from a range of licenses, from TV syndication to Paw Patrol plushies and costumes. But lending titles like Yellowstone, South Park, and others to Paramount Plus’ direct rivals is also part of it. When you provide your own programming exclusively to your own service, you leave behind piles of that money that you could have brought in if you licensed it to someone else.
And ViacomCBS has a large back catalog to draw from: about 140,000 TV episodes and 4,000 movies. The company doesn’t want all that on Paramount Plus.
“We can’t keep all that to ourselves. It makes no sense,” CEO Bob Bakish said a year ago as Paramount Plus prepared for its launch. “It is too much.”
Bakish has repeatedly said the company’s strategy is “evolving” in terms of how much of its own programming it should license and how much it should keep for itself, with the same chorus Thursday. The company’s licensing strategy has “shifted to be much more focused” on having its own franchises on its own streaming service, he said. But the “legacy deals” the company made before the launch of Paramount Plus could have a long tail, he added.
However, in addition to the money ViacomCBS makes from licensing, Paramount Plus also believes it may be able to attract more new members if it lets other, larger services stream some of its titles. Bakish has noted that other platforms can expand audiences for an older show so that the reboots and spin-offs have a bigger fan base for Paramount Plus.
It’s a perverse kind of logic. But Netflix has more than 213 million subscribers worldwide, while Paramount Plus has fewer – probably far fewer – than 47 million. ViacomCBS is betting that renting out the back catalog of Nickelodeon’s iCarly to Netflix could help fuel a bigger fandom, which in turn could be attracted to Paramount Plus for the series’ exclusive reboot. Interest in Avatar: The Last Airbender soared last year when the show hit Netflix, which certainly helped motivate ViacomCBS’ decision to do a fullrelated programming.
But that strategy also means that when the Yellowstone prequel 1883 arrives on Paramount Plus in December, detailing the Dutton family’s arrival in Montana more than a century ago, the unknowns will have to go elsewhere to find out who the Duttons are. .