AT&T has DirecTV. Verizon has Go90. And starting next year, T-Mobile will begin offering an over-the-air, direct-to-consumer premium video service of its own.
In an announcement published to YouTube on Monday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that the carrier had finalized the acquisition of TV tech company Layer3 TV, and that it’d begin to secure the necessary content deals, contracts, and services for a competitive TV service launch in 2018.
It’ll be one without “long-term contracts” or “complex bundles and billing,” Legere said, and one that’s priced disruptively. “We’re going to build TV for people who love TV — TV you’ll be able to watch on every connected device you have wherever you are,” Mr. Legere said. “[We’re] about to ‘un-carrier’ your TV. [We want] to take the fight to big cable and satellite TV on behalf of consumers everywhere.”
T-Mobile didn’t hint at the forthcoming service’s subscription tiers, features, or availability, and was equally mum on whether its debut would affect any of the carrier’s existing promotions. Currently, T-Mobile offers Bing On, which exempts streaming services such as YouTube and Hulu from subscribers’ monthly data caps, and Netflix On Us, a free Netflix subscription for new customers who sign up for a T-Mobile One family plan.
But T-Mobile’s confident it’ll be able to persuade the estimated 1.6 million subscribers who left traditional cable companies in the first half of 2017. “This is part of our long-term carrier strategy for video and mobile entertainment,” Mr. Legere said. “If there was ever a market that needs the un-carrier, it’s cable and satellite TV.”
It’s certainly a market ripe for disruption. About 94 percent of U.S. housholds pay for some form of TV, up from 89 percent last year, according to T-Mobile, and over the past seven years, the average cable bill has risen 48 percent.
But the carrier’s a bit late to the ball game. Verizon’s working on a streaming service that’s expected to launch early next year, and an increasing number of internet providers, satellite TV providers, and entertainment companies offer no-contract alternatives to cable TV bundles. Sony’s over-the-top PlayStation Vue, for example, boasts more than over 50 channels including ESPN, Disney networks, and CNN, and Google’s YouTube TV has a unique cloud DVR that lets subscribers play back recorded shows from anywhere.
T-Mobile has its work cut out for it, no doubt. But it’s newly acquired team is up to the challenge.
“No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!” Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, said in a press release. “Together with T-Mobile, we’re going to ditch everything you hate about cable and make everything you love about TV better.”