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T-Mobile Launching 'TVision Home' Against Cable TV

Jeff Baumgartner
4/10/2019

Taking aim at legacy cable and satellite TV service providers, T-Mobile on Wednesday introduced TVision Home, a rebranded and enhanced home pay-TV service that was previously offered and marketed under the Layer3 TV label.

T-Mobile, which acquired Layer3 TV in January 2018 and is in the process of merging with Sprint, said the newly-branded pay-TV offering will be offered in eight cities starting April 14: Chicago; Dallas-Forth Worth; Los Angeles; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and Longmont, Colo., with plans to expand TVision Home to more markets later this year.

In addition to delivering a full-freight pay-TV service that Layer3 TV was already known for (a lineup of 275-plus channels, and a VoD library with more than 35,000 titles), TVision Home will also integrate Netflix and Amazon on its own 4K-capable set-top boxes. Those boxes are outfitted with 1 terabyte of DVR storage (enough to hold about 400 hours of HD programming). T-Mobile has not announced if or when it will add cloud DVR capabilities.

Before the upgrade, Layer3 TV had already integrated several other OTT apps, including Pandora, iHeartRadio, Xumo (a free, ad supported video streaming service), and CuriosityStream, with its set-top box platform.

The TVision Home boxes will also allow customers to set up individual viewing profiles and support voice-based control, search and navigation via tie-ins with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

T-Mobile said plans are underway to make TVision Home available on "popular" third-party streaming devices, and reiterated that a national, mobile-focused pay-TV offering will launch later in 2019.

Not cheap
As a full-freight offering out of the chute, TVision Home won't come cheap -- it's launching at $90 per month. However, the price includes a $9.99 per month discount for T-Mobile customers that will also be extended to all TVision Home customers for a limited time. In the early going, those customers will also be on the hook for $10 per month per connected TV. T-Mobile didn't say if it will eventually offer cheaper, skinny pay-TV bundles, but argued that its initial price compares to the average cable bill of $107.30 per month.

Though TVision Home's IP-delivered service requires a separate wired broadband connection, T-Mobile is working on a 5G-powered wireless broadband service that is being billed as a wired home Internet replacement that can be bundled with its home pay-TV offering.

To help prime the pump for the rebranded pay-TV offering and steal a page from its mobile game plan, T-Mobile said it will kick off the service with a "Satellite Freedom" campaign in which it will pay up to $500 (with a prepaid card) on early contract termination fees for customers of Dish Network and DirecTV who want to switch to TVision Home.

Before being acquired by T-Mobile, Layer3 TV managed to sign on about 5,000 customers, despite limited consumer outreach and marketing. That number should climb more rapidly as T-Mobile's marketing machine revs up.

"The Un-carrier has already changed wireless for goodÖ and today's news brings us one step closer to taking on Big Cable," John Legere, T-Mobile's CEO, said in a statement.

T-Mobile also introduced a promotional video for TVision Home that spends a good deal of time chiding the legacy pay-TV industry it's targeting with the newly-branded offering:

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Clifton K Morris
Clifton K Morris
4/10/2019 | 3:18:31 PM
Re: Analyst: Where's the disruption?
I agree, Jeff. I stopped into a T-Mobile store in Longmont last December around the holidays. The store offered the service branded as Layer3. Premium channels were in line with cable (HBO was $20 a month), and there was only 2 channels in 4K (one was NASA channel; no entertainment or movies.)

While T-Vision service itself didnít have a contract, it required Fiber ISP service from Longmont City Light, a municipal city-run utility. This requisite requirement added $75 to the cost of service and (going off memory) the fiber ISP required a 2-year contract. Using any other ISP service is not an option.

Overall, when you factor in the overall price of Cable for TV, XfinityMobile for wireless, other TVision limitations (no cloud DVR, home phone line or home security options) it actually made better sense to stay with Cable. The pain point problem resided with customer service- Comcast has a single point of contact, sends out a technician for resolution. Todate, I donít believe T-Mobile has (or will ever) invest into a fleet of technicians like Cable or Satellite companies have to address service issues. Cable and Satellite is regulated unlike streaming services.

Overall, itís a service designed for early adopters and those who are influenced by copious amounts of window dressing.
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner
4/10/2019 | 1:53:21 PM
Analyst: Where's the disruption?
Color BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk unimpressed with T-Mobile's initial stab at rebranding/relaunching the Layer3 TV in-home pay-TV service.

"16 months after buying Layer 3, T-Mobile announced a $100/month TV service that requires a broadband connection and a new set top box. That's not very disruptive," he wrote in a blog post (registration required). 

He said the price point out of the chute is "not compelling" compared to YouTube TV's and its $40/month baseline offering, and wondered who would buy what T-Mobile is selling at this point. Update: YouTube TV just jacked its baseline price to $50 after adding networks from the Discovery stable. 

YouTube TV, a live TV streaming service designed to replace a traditional cable TV package, will raise its monthly price from $40 to $50. Subscribers billed through Apple will have to pay $55.

Early on, T-Mobile effectively has rebranded the fat pay-TV bundle that layer3 TV had been offering before the acquisition; we'll have to see if they can make the economics work for slimmer bundles and more varied packages to hit different segments of the market. I suspect we'll see some of that when T-Mobile launches its mobile-focused offering.

Piecyk was also surprised that, out of the chute, T-Mobile's newly branded in-home offering is not yet being teamed with a broadband offering using LTE integrated into the set-top box.

"It's not complex, but presumably will require more network capacity than T-Mobile can currently handle," the analyst wrote, adding that, with respect to T-Mobile's broadband strategy, a decision on the proposed Spring deal "can't come soon enough." -- JB
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