T-Mobile is taking an aggressive new swing at the U.S. pay-TV sector, threatening to further roil the market’s dynamics: The carrier announced a new suite of TVision internet packages, available nationwide, that start at just $10 per month.
With the new over-the-top TV play, T-Mobile wants to attract cord-cutters — and also poach existing cable and satellite TV customers who are fed up with traditional pay TV’s high prices and restrictive channel packaging. The TVision services are available in-home and also on wireless apps anywhere in the U.S.
T-Mobile also is introducing TVision Hub, a $50 Android TV-based adapter (with a remote) that plugs into the back of an HDTV to provide access to the TVision OTT services and 8,000-plus apps including Netflix and YouTube.
“People sure love TV — but they sure don’t love their TV provider,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a livestream announcing the TVision lineup. He said incumbent cable and satellite TV providers are holding customers “hostage,” because they bundle in “live news and sports with hundreds of other channels you don’t want.”
“Get ready to un-cable, everybody,” Sievert added.
The new TVision services are available on platforms including iOS, Android (and Android TV), Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. The OTT packages and the TVision Hub are scheduled to be available starting Nov. 1, starting first with T-Mobile postpaid wireless subscribers. Later in November, TVision will be available to legacy Sprint customers.
In 2021, T-Mobile plans to offer the OTT services to prepaid wireless customers and those who don’t have T-Mobile wireless service (although the company said prices will be higher for non-T-Mobile users).
The Vibe package ($10/mo.) features 30 non-sports/non-news channels like AMC, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, MTV and TLC, with two concurrent streams. The three “live” TV packages, which include 100 hours of DVR recording and up to three streams, are: TVision Live TV ($40/mo.) with 30-plus sports, news and local TV stations including from Disney, ESPN, ABC, Fox, NBC, CNN/Turner; Live TV Plus ($50/mo.), which adds NFL Network and other sports nets; and Live Zone ($60/mo.), which adds NFL RedZone and a handful of others.
T-Mobile also is offering a selection of TVision Channels — with options for Showtime ($10.99/mo.), Starz ($8.99/mo.) and Epix ($5.99/mo.), available as standalone packages or with other the TV bundles.
See the full TVision channel lineups at this link.
“It’s maximizing choice where we think we can offer it,” said Robert Gary, senior VP of T-Mobile Entertainment.
Through Dec. 31, T-Mobile will give subs who take one of the two priciest TVision plans (Live TV Plus or Live Zone) free access to Apple TV Plus for 12 months and a discounted Apple TV 4K set-top ($99 after rebate; it’s normally $179).
Overall, the most radical change with T-Mobile’s new TVision services is that it splits entertainment and lifestyle channels into the separate Vibe package, with news, sports and local TV in the “live” tiers. But that also means that if you want a complete cable TV lineup, you’re still going to pay rates comparable to traditional pay-TV providers or internet OTT TV services like YouTube TV or Hulu With Live TV.
Notably, the TVision Live lineups are missing CBS broadcast networks, and T-Mobile does not offer HBO or HBO Max — from AT&T’s WarnerMedia — as an a-la-carte option. The carrier’s OTT services also are not available on Roku devices at this point.
Regarding the absence of CBS local stations in the product, Gary said customers are able to subscribe to CBS All Access (which will be rebranded Paramount Plus in 2021) separately from TVision. “Those who want that full CBS experience can get it for $5.99 per month, and so they have that choice,” he said. T-Mobile is looking to add Roku support for TVision in the future, Gary added, and may consider exploring bringing HBO Max into the lineup.
The company touted the TVision relaunch as its latest “Un-carrier” move — T-Mobile’s snarky marketing tagline that it uses to diss its bigger rivals, AT&T and Verizon.
Indeed, T-Mobile’s low-priced TVision offerings are aimed most directly at AT&T — whose pay-TV rolls have crumbled dramatically over the last two years. For the third quarter, AT&T’s “premium TV” subscribers (DirecTV and AT&T TV broadband service) totaled 17.1 million, a loss of 3.3 million over the past 12 months. AT&T TV Now, the telco’s OTT service that was supposed to offset such losses, shrank to 683,000 (down 40% year-over-year).
The new TVision services are based on technology developed by startup Layer3, which T-Mobile bought in 2017. The carrier promoted the reskinned TVision Home service as “an alternative to cable TV” — but with a starting price of $100 per month, it wasn’t appealing to cord-cutters. In addition, Layer3’s model was to deliver pay TV through deals with broadband providers who could guarantee throughput; the existing TVision Home has had limited availability, in metro areas including Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Longmont, Colo. By contrast, the new TVision OTT television services work over any broadband service.
T-Mobile has previously catered to streaming-video users with its Binge On program, offering wireless customers unlimited access to partner services. In 2017, in what Sievert noted has been one of T-Mobile’s most popular customer perks, the company added “Netflix On Us,” providing Netflix for no extra charge to customers on T-Mobile unlimited family plans.