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T-Mobile US finally makes foray into TV world

T-Mobile TVision

Some might have started to think it was never going to happen, but T-Mobile US has finally unveiled its own attempt to crack the content market TVision Home.

The service, which will initially be launched in eight US cities on April 14, is the re-branded and upgraded version of Layer3 TV, the platform it acquired in early 2018. It might have taken a while for the proposition to emerge, but T-Mobile US is entering the highly congested and increasingly fragmented world of content.

“The Un-carrier has already changed wireless for good, and today’s news brings us one step closer to taking on Big Cable,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile. “And with the New T-Mobile, we can do more than just offer home TV service, we can offer millions of Americans more choice and competition for TV AND home broadband. I can’t wait to begin un-cabling cable and giving millions the opportunity to cut the cord with Big Cable forever.”

While this might not be the big splash some were hoping for, T-Mobile US does plan on launching a streaming service to compliment this cable offering later in the year. For the moment, this is an effort to disrupt a traditional industry, something which Legere is very good at doing, and there is of course an element of the unusual in the launch.

The TV service itself is not the Uncarrier move, but the Satellite Freedom initiative certainly is. According to T-Mobile US, 48% of US customers are locked into a contract and face paying hundreds in early termination fees. To win over customers, T-Mobile US will offer any Dish or DirecTV customers who make the switch a prepaid card with up to $500 on it.

For the moment, it looks more like a bundling service, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it does address a point of irritation for the consumer. Netflix and Amazon Prime will be bundled into the service to start with, while T-Mobile US promises more third-party bundles in the future.

The service begins with 150 channels of local and national content for $99.99 a month, though existing T-Mobile US customers will get a $9.99 discount, while any premium services (such as Netflix, Amazon or HBO) will be extra. When you add everything together, it isn’t that much of a discount on the average cable cost across the US, which T-Mobile US claims is $107.30 per month.

The platform itself is simply an upgraded version of the Layer3 TV service which it acquired to $325 million last year, though considering how long T-Mobile US has kept everyone waiting, it does seem a bit underwhelming. While a lot has been promised, such as the box becoming redundant as the TVision app is installed on hardware, minimal details don’t inspire much confidence. T-Mobile US is promising to deliver on the commitments sharpish but considering how long it took to get the basic proposition to market we’re not entirely confident.

Ultimately, the success of this service will come down to two things. Firstly, pricing, T-Mobile US has been successful in the past by offering more for less, and secondly, the experience. Should the 150 channels offer good content, customers will certainly be happy, though there are plenty of examples of failed forays into TV because the content doesn’t deliver on expectations.

Another interesting development will be the personalisation features. T-Mobile US has stated each member of the household will have their own profile with the discovery engine presumably tailored to that individual. It might sound great, but we are still not convinced this is a feature which many customers will find that intriguing. It might be a nice to have, but we doubt it will be a factor in the buying decision making process.

While there is promise for the future, the launch is a bit flat. Legere has a reputation for creating innovative ideas and challenging the status quo, but this looks to be an assault on a segment which has already been disrupted. There are promises to launch a streaming service, and that might have been something more in-line with what the industry expected, but this service is attacking an industry where the revenues are already declining.

That said, you can’t ignore that this is an opportunity for Legere to make more money for T-Mobile US. The cable segment is declining, but it isn’t dead. The service is not necessarily anything new, but T-Mobile US does have an existing customer base to leverage. This might dictate the quality of content on the platform, possibly the decided factor for success or failure, and we already know Legere is a cunning businessman. Content owners will be intrigued by what he can offer.

Whether it was unreasonable to expect more remains to be seen, though this service doesn’t necessarily look any distinguishable from others on the market.

  • Video Exchange MENA


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