T-Mobile Tries to Undercut Cable With Pay TV Starting at $10

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T-Mobile US Inc. introduced a slimmed-down streaming TV service, joining a crowded market of companies looking to capitalize of the flight of subscribers from cable and satellite.

TVision offers three tiers of live TV starting at $10 for more than 30 channels, the wireless carrier said Tuesday. To view programs, subscribers will need mobile or broadband connections. The service will be available via a $50 plug-in device similar to a Roku or Chromecast player, as well as through a mobile-phone app and on the Apple TV and Amazon Fire platforms.

The bundle of live TV packages is aimed at consumers outside cities and suburbs, where choices are limited. It’s also targeting the millions who are canceling conventional pay TV. But T-Mobile is late to a contest that includes on-demand services like Netflix and Disney+, live offerings such as Hulu and Sling TV, and options for both from other wireless companies.

Higher-priced plans with more programming including regional sports are also available. Customers on the $50 or $60 plans are eligible for Apple TV+ for one year free as part of the deal. Service launches Nov. 1.

“We’re offering three distinct streaming services to let customers break up with cable,” Dow Draper, T-Mobile’s executive vice president of emerging products, said in an interview.

This marks the second attempt by the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier to enter the roiling pay-TV market. An earlier version of TVision offers more than 150+ channels for $100 a month and requires a set-top box. Draper said the company will continue to support those original TV customers. The new TVision runs on Google’s Android TV software.

Subscriber Exodus

T-Mobile’s move comes at a time when the exodus of subscribers from traditional pay-TV packages shows no signs of slowing.

Just ask AT&T Inc. After losing 2.6 million TV subscribers so far this year, Chief Executive Officer John Stankey said the industry will probably see the numbers drop to a plateau of about 60 million. That’s down from 91 million last year.

“The economics of video are terrible, programming is expensive, and it’s difficult when you try to pass those costs through to the consumer,” said Andy Walker, an industry strategist with Accenture.

The growing ranks of new players give consumers more options than ever, including ones from T-Mobile’s wireless competitors AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc.

T-Mobile may see this as an opportune moment to attract TV customers with a lower-cost service and add them to their wireless customer base, Walker said. “Everyone already has as many cellphones as they need.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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