Deeper Dive—What’s T-Mobile’s video strategy now that Sprint’s done?

T-Mobile TV
Now, with a truly arduous acquisition process finally complete, T-Mobile might get back to delivering on its video promises. (Pixabay)

T-Mobile this week wrapped up the lengthy process of acquiring Sprint. With the deal done, the company may pick up where it left off on its video strategy.

T-Mobile’s focus has been on building out its 5G network and using the bandwidth to provide in-home broadband to underserved populations. The company said it will take on “big cable” by providing 100+ Mbps speeds for wireless broadband to 90% of the population and offering in-home service to millions of the country’s households in the next six years.

When T-Mobile closed its deal for cable TV upstart Layer3 TV in early 2018, it used similar language about challenging incumbent cable and satellite providers.

“We know people love their TV, but hate their TV providers. But, the reaction to our announcement last month took even me by surprise. People are ready for choice and change! Well, good news ‘cause that’s exactly what we’re gonna bring!” said John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO at the time. “I can’t wait to take the fight to Big Cable and Satellite TV on behalf of consumers everywhere!”

After some initial delays, T-Mobile in April of last year officially launched TVision Home, a $100 per month full cable replacement product with more than 275 channels including HD and 4K content, personalized DVRs for each family member, Amazon Alexa and Google voice integration and social media integration.

The offer was met with some skepticism at the time due to its price. Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s former COO who is now CEO, defended the pricing as more transparent than what comes with two-year contracts.

“…It’s priced below what typical people at cable and satellite pay when they’re beyond that first promotional year. They’re in year two of those multiyear contracts where you sign up for something and it’s swell at first and then you get slammed,” said Sievert during an earnings call last year. “We come in with fair, rational pricing from day one that saves them money right away versus year two and beyond in those crazy contracts.”

In an FCC filing last year, the company said it wants to offer a “full replacement that will compete with current ISPs for existing double/triple-play subscribers,” suggesting a video and broadband bundle. Since then, however, T-Mobile hasn’t said much about TVision Home.

According to Light Reading’s Jeff Baumgartner, T-Mobile’s working on the Layer3 TV technology platform to make sure that it can scale. He also reported that T-Mobile is working with MobiTV, whose Connect app-based TV platform is used by many smaller operators.

Besides TVision Home, T-Mobile was also at work on a mobile video service. Last year, Sievert said the company wants to provide a service that helps customers choose the video subscription plans that make the most sense for them as well as handling billing, search and discovery for those services.

“We think there’s a more nuanced role for us to play in helping you get access to the great media brands out there that you love and to be able to put together your own media subscription in smaller pieces: $5, $6, $7 or $8 at a time,” he said. “It’s an exciting future for us.”

In April last year, T-Mobile announced a distribution deal with Viacom (which has since recombined with CBS) and said Viacom’s brands and channels would “play a key role in T-Mobile’s delivery of compelling new mobile video services to consumers later this year.”

While the conversation around that mobile video service has since died down, T-Mobile has stayed busy partnering with streaming services including Netflix and Quibi, which T-Mobile will give to its subscribers for free beginning Monday when the service launches.

As T-Mobile gets to work on integrating Sprint and its spectrum along with meeting the benchmarks it laid out for New T-Mobile, the video strategy is still not clear. The company made no mention of video when it announced the deal closure on Wednesday. But now, with a truly arduous acquisition process finally complete, the company might get back to delivering on its video promises.

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