Streaming Services Are Abusing the + Sign and It Must End

By Angela Watercutter

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

OK, seriously, why does everyone insist on adding + to their streaming service name? Look, we get it. Brands are trying to relay that not only do they have the content that viewers already associate with their company/studio/network, but also so much more. But why has a mathematical symbol become the go-to way of relaying that? Granted, an ampersand would probably be worse, but what happened to the good-old days when marketing execs earned their salaries by coming up with new names, instead of adding symbols to old ones? Sure, everybody wants to hold on to their brand recognition, but there was a time when folks at least got creative and came up with a rhyme—Showtime Anytime—or whipped up an intransitive verb—HBO Go. Now, we just have an addition symbol—and without anything to add on after it. The equation is incomplete.

Yes, this argument is a bit facetious. But now that ViacomCBS is planning to transform CBS All Access into—wait for it—Paramount+ this madness has to stop. The plus sign is losing all meaning.

For those who don’t remember, this all started with ESPN. Back in April of 2018 the sports network launched its over-the-top streaming service, dubbed it ESPN+, and priced it at $4.99 per month. A few months later, in November of that year, ESPN’s parent company, Disney, revealed that its new streaming service—a home for everything from Pixar to Marvel movies to Star Wars—would stick with the family nomenclature and call itself Disney+. OK, fine. Then, in June 2019, BET Networks and Tyler Perry Studios announced BET+. Three months after that, Apple held an event unveiling Apple TV+. While the name signaled what was sure to be a wave of Plus Fatigue (Fatigue+?), it also was a bit of a misnomer. It was an attempt to build on the brand of the Apple TV gadget, but in its naming erased the fact that it also has movies.

Truly, all of these services could’ve learned from their forebears. Hulu, you might remember, had an ad-free tier known as Hulu Plus (minus the “+”) all the way back in 2010. That streaming service, however, had the good sense to drop the name, telling subscribers all the way back in 2015 that while “we’ve had a blast with our old friend Plus … it’s time to move on.” And move on they did.

Others have not, and now there’s Paramount+. Per the company’s announcement, the new name seems to be a play for more name recognition. In the company’s announcement, ViacomCBS president Bob Bakish even noted that it is “an iconic and storied brand beloved by consumers all over the world, and it is synonymous with quality, integrity, and world-class storytelling.” That’s fair; outside of the US, more people are likely more aware of Paramount than CBS. But still, why the “+”? Maybe use some alliteration and call it Paramount Pro or Paramount Premium? Yes, I realize “plus” also provides alliteration, but still, if you’re going to use a symbol, why not a novel one? Were no wingdings available? Or perhaps just call it “Paramount!” Suddenly, Peacock seems like a very sane choice.

But I digress. These things are what they are. In other pro-Plus news, Disney+ just picked up a small handful of Creative Arts Emmys thanks to The Mandalorian, and they’re nominated for more during Sunday’s telecast (which, if you haven’t heard, will be airing live via laptops, ring lights, cameras, and boom mics sent to 130 nominees’ homes). So, if the Pluses gave us anything this week, it’s the thought of Baby Yoda standing next to a little gold statue.

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