'Un-carrier' T-Mobile Relaunches Its Un-cable TVision Streaming Service

T-Mobile is relaunching its TVision Live pay-TV streaming service with multiple tiers and an optional Android TV-based streaming device. 

The service will go live for T-Mobile postpaid customers starting Nov. 1, for T-Mobile prepaid subscribers by year's end, and consumers without T-Mobile wireless some time in 2021.

T-Mobile's service looks to take on existing OTT offerings, including virtual MVPDs AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Fubo TV, Sling TV, Philo and Hulu With Live TV, with lower prices. 

The blunt sell: “With TVision, you can cut the cord, cut the cost and cut the crap,” said Dow Draper, T-Mobile executive vice president of Emerging Products.

“The ‘cableopoly’ holds TV fans hostage, bundling live news and sports into expensive packages with hundreds of other channels that people don’t want, and don’t watch,” elaborates Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile, which dubbed itself "the Un-carrier" to highlight its disruptive offers in the wireless space. "Just like we changed wireless for good, today we’re going to change TV for good.”



Its cheapest programming tier, TVision Vibe, offers more than 30 entertainment channels, but no sports or news channels, for $10 per month. AMC, BET, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, MTV, TLC are among the channels included.

The TVision Live tier, at $40 per month for 30-plus channels, is focused on news and sports channels. ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox and CNBC (but not CBS) are included, along with FS1, FS2, ESPN, and NBC Sports. TVision Live also includes standard cable fare such as TBS, TNT, USA, Bravo, the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and SyFy. 

The TVision Live+ tier, at $50, has 10 more channels, including The NFL Network, the Big Ten Network, ESPNU, the SEC Network and regional NBC sports channels. T-Mobile's pitch stresses that this tier is $15 less than YouTube TV, "even with NFL Network."

The $60 TVision Live Zone tier, promoted as the best option for avid sports fans, includes 10 more channels, notably NFL RedZone.

There's also TVison Channels, an a la carte service platform offering unified access to premium networks with their own monthly charges, including Showtime ($10.99), Starz ($8.99) and Epix ($5.99).

The service is available via the TVison app on Android and Apple mobile devices, and Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the new Google TV -- though not on Roku devices.

For a $50 one-time charge, users can buy the new TVision Hub Android TV dongle, which connects the TVision app with streaming apps such as Netflix, Disney+, CBS AllAccess/Paramount+, HBO Max and others not yet within TVision Channels, plus games and music.

The T-Mobile announcement was made in a livestream that included a humorous video featuring “Parks and Recreation” star Rashida Jones on her phone stressing out as she tries to deal with her cable company.

To promote the relaunch, T-Mobile is offering those who sign up for TVision Live TV+ or Live Zone packages by December 31 free Apple TV+ for a year, plus the option to add Apple TV 4K for $99, said to be an $80 savings after rebate.

As 5G gets built out, all of the wireless companies will be marketing themselves as home broadband providers, taking on the domain once monopolized by cable companies.

“I suspect that T-Mobile will bundle [TVison] with 5G broadband when they have it — the notion is that they will all sell 5G as a competitor to cable broadband with a modem for the homes,” says Alan Wolk, TV analyst and founder of the TV[R]ev site. Still, he adds, “There is a limited market for virtual MVPDs, which is becoming more limited as all of the major broadcast networks open streaming services, which means there is more and better programming on streaming for less money.”

Cable and satellite TV continue to face unrelenting subscriber losses. Analyst/researcher The Diffusion Group recently reported that one in four pay-TV subscribers are fairly likely to cut the cord this year, accelerating a trend that will result in U.S. pay-TV homes declining from 77 million today to 58 million by 2025.

But vMVPD users have also been declining. In 2019, MoffettNathanson found that only one in four pay-TV subscribers that left cable or satellite providers moved to an online replacement.

For wireless subscribers, however, digital inducements can be enticing. T-Mobile, which has become the second largest wireless company after Verizon, already offers free Netflix service to subscribers on some phone plans. AT&T-owned HBO Max is offered free to some AT&T phone plan customers, and Verizon offers free Disney streaming plans to some unlimited access customers.

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