T-Mobile, which recently decided to take on the cable companies on their home turf by offering an unlimited wireless LTE home internet service, doesn’t want us to forget that it still has designs on cable’s original bread and butter: TV.
Though its plan to launch a “disruptive new TV service in 2018,” has clearly failed to materialize, it’s not because T-Mobile is tossing in the towel. In fact, it recently inked a deal with Viacom that will see Viacom’s TV channels, like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, and Paramount, on the first version of that TV service — a mobile TV package that it still expects to launch later in 2019. Under the new deal, T-Mobile can stream live, linear feeds of Viacom’s channels in addition to on-demand versions of the shows.
The in-home version is still in the works, though its launch date remains murky. It will make use of 5G technology to replace cable, according to TechCrunch, which might give it a very different footprint than its in-home internet service. What hasn’t changed is T-Mobile‘s acquisition of cable provider Layer3 TV acting as the platform on which it will build both mobile and in-home TV businesses. With its own IP network, it can send high-definition video to homes at levels of bandwidth similar to Netflix. Layer3 TV is currently only available in five U.S. cities and provides more than 275 channels, including ESPN, NBC, AMC, and other popular channels at higher video quality than similar services. The TV provider also mixes video content from streaming services and social media with broadcast and cable channels.
Our only indication of how its TV service will operate remains a video featuring T-Mobile’s inimitable CEO, John Legere. The service’s user interface in the video shows a carousel of channels and services such as Netflix, AMC, and Hulu, which people can swipe through. Options such as DVR are available above the viewing options. While watching video content, you can swipe through channels overlaid on the screen with information on which of your friends are watching that particular program.
In the video, T-Mobile says it will use “machine learning to understand your likes and tastes.” TV programs are pictured with a thumbs-up button next to them, presumably allowing you to “like” a program. Cooking competition show Chopped is recommended to a viewer in the video because they liked the Food Network. Everything in the video is a demo of possible services, so all of this could be different by the time T-Mobile actually launches it.
Legere released a video announcing T-Mobile’s foray into TV and took aim at today’s cable TV model: “Requiring a landline just to get a better price on cable? It’s complete bullshit,” Legere asserted.
The new TV service is part of T-Mobile’s strategy that included giving free Netflix subscriptions to those with T-Mobile family plans. No price has been announced for either version of T-Mobile’s new TV service, but you’d have to expect T-Mobile will be aiming to make it more affordable than cable.
Updated on April 3, 2019: Added details regarding the Viacom deal.