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The + That’s Taking Over Streaming Platforms

An idea that seemed like a real plus when streaming was newer has fallen into cliché.

With the proliferation of streaming platforms, the plus sign has become an all-purpose marker that signals endless hours of on-demand shows.

Plus-sign streaming services include ESPN+ (started in 2018), Apple TV+ (2019), Disney+ (2019), BET+ (2019), AMC+ (2020) and Discovery+ (2021). On Wednesday, streaming entered peak plus with ViacomCBS’s rebranding of CBS All Access. The company has decided to call it Paramount+.

Tacking on the plus sign to the name of a well-known movie studio might be a very effective way to tell customers that the platform offers movies and something extra. Or it could be “a disaster,” said Mike Carr, the co-founder of the branding company NameStormers.

“The plus is a great idea short-term and a terrible idea long-term,” said Mr. Carr, who has helped come up with names for thousands of clients, including CarMax, the used car company, and Angry Orchard, the hard cider label.

The streaming platform Hulu used it in 2010, when it started the Hulu Plus subscription service. In 2015, the company subtracted the plus and the name became just plain Hulu. “We’ve had a blast with our old friend Plus,” Hulu said when it announced the change, “but it’s time to move on.”

“I can’t say how many times I’ve seen this happen — there’s always a next generation, a version 3.0 or 4.0,” Mr. Carr said. “So does it become Paramount Plus Plus? Paramount Plus Plus Plus?”

Now the plus sign may end up becoming shorthand for streaming itself, “in the same way the pound sign became the hashtag,” Ms. Doughty said.

Executives at naming companies said that ViacomCBS and Disney most likely went through months of debates and focus groups, as well as trademark and foreign language checks, before approving the plus-sign brands.

“It’s not that ‘plus’ is the best name,” said Steve Manning, a founder of the Igor Naming Agency. “It’s the one that survives, because everything else is eviscerated. It’s the least objectionable choice to a massive audience.”

Mr. Manning, whose firm turned Court TV into truTV, likened the task of name selection to choosing a pizza by committee.

“Somebody’s going to be lactose intolerant, somebody’s not going to eat meat,” he said. “You’ll be lucky if you’re eating anything more than just a gluten-free crust with cheese on a good day.”

With so many streaming companies having adopted the symbol, she said ViacomCBS “completely missed an opportunity” by naming its platform Paramount+, rather than going with something more imaginative.

“Plus is the lowest common denominator,” she said. “It’s lazy, and the easy way out.”

Category: Technology

Source: New York Times

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