Years after buying Layer3, T-Mobile has finally revealed its TVision, a streaming TV service to disrupt the cable industry. The price is likely its best bet for achieving its goal.
After spending a week with TVision, I can say that it’s an intuitive and responsive TV experience that works well for lean-forward and lean-back viewing on connected TV and mobile. The full channel grid should appease traditional linear TV fans, and the platform will satisfy streaming viewers who like to have their services and shows accessible in one place.
TVision consists of two key components: an Android TV-based streaming device dubbed TVision Hub (which sells for $50) and the TVision service (which comes in three mix-and-match flavors.)
The Hub is a standard streaming dongle with a solid remote like the one that accompanies AT&T TV, another Android TV-based video service. TVision’s remote is uncluttered, but it contains a good amount of functionality including shortcut buttons for TVision’s guide, home page and DVR; Netflix; YouTube and Google Assistant. Set-up for both the Hub and remote was simple, consisting of connecting the Hub to an HDMI port, plugging it in and following a few on-screen prompts. I was watching live TV within five minutes of unboxing the device.
The mobile experience – which I got to test out on an iOS device – was similarly easy to set up and dive into live, on-demand and DVR content.
All in all, TVision is a good, straightforward TV service with a UX designed to get viewers into live TV quickly. Which is to say, not all that different from most of the other options available for live TV. It’s the price of it all that stands out in contrast to other vMVPDs along with cable and satellite providers.
“We’ve tried to break up the traditional cable bundle into pieces so that customers will have more choice,” said Robert Gary, senior vice president at T-Mobile entertainment.
TVision Live starts at $40/month for more than 30 channels (ABC, NBC, Fox, ESPN, TBS and more) and goes as high as $60/month for extra sports, news and kids channels. TVision Vibe is $10/month and includes most of the general entertainment cable channels from AMC, Discovery, ViacomCBS and others.
Finally, TVision Channels seeks to mimic the unified platform approach deployed by Amazon, Roku, Comcast, Apple and others, although T-Mobile’s version of a premium subscription nucleus is currently limited to just Showtime, Starz and Epix.
TVision Live is a lot like other vMVPDs including YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV and AT&T TV Now, but the basic tier manages to undercut them all. Believe it or not, it was only about two and a half years ago when $40/month was the standard asking rate for many vMVPDs. However, as programming costs rose and channel packages expanded, those prices gradually crept up. TVision Live could win over some consumers who get frustrated when YouTube TV issues a big $15 price hike like it did this summer. But will TVision be able to keep its own prices down?
TVision is missing CBS stations during the NFL season; that channel is a must-have for fans. It’s also one of many vMVPDs to pass on Sinclair’s Fox regional sports networks. If either one of those enter the mix – either within Live, Live TV+ or Live Zone – T-Mobile could find itself under pressure to raise prices.
For the price conscious, T-Mobile still has Vibe. Philo already offers a similar lineup – though much bigger – along with a cloud DVR for $20/month, but Vibe’s $10 price tag makes it an “easy enough ‘why not?’ choice, according to TV[R]EV analyst Alan Wolk.
TVision goes live today for T-Mobile’s postpaid subscribers and next year for non-T-Mobile subscribers. The service doesn’t stand out much from competitors in terms of features and functions. But it could end up being a strong companion to T-Mobile’s fixed 5G service and may attract some cord cutters looking for relatively cheap live news and sports.
Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by a member of the Fierce editorial team.