Post updated at 7:30 a.m. with comment from YouTube.
T-Mobile says it has added YouTube as an official partner for the wireless carrier’s “Binge On” video streaming program, addressing the video site’s early concerns about the controversial initiative by giving video providers more control over the quality of the video stream.
The addition is notable because YouTube raised early objections about Binge On, which lets users stream video without counting against their data plans, but also uses lower-quality streams (480p) over mobile than many video providers would otherwise deliver.
“Early on, when YouTube expressed some initial concerns about the program, we invited them to sit down and figure this out together,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere in a video message today announcing the news. “They did, and today they’re in. We listened and made some changes, worked out some very cool creative solutions, and YouTube joined Binge On.”
Legere said T-Mobile will give video providers more control over how their content shows up in Binge On, including the ability to exclude video from mobile optimization. YouTube will be the first provider to manage its video stream for T-Mobile customers who have Binge On activated, and Legere said T-Mobile will also be rolling this out to other providers.
In a post on the Google Public Policy blog, YouTube product management director Christian Kleinerman explained the video streaming service’s change of heart.
“The initial implementation of the Binge On program raised questions from both users and video services, including YouTube,” Kleinerman wrote. “For instance, we didn’t think it was clear how the program would be implemented for video services that were not included in the ‘free streaming’ portion of the Binge On program. We also thought users needed more help to understand how the program worked and how to exercise their options.”
But since then, in addition to the changes for video services, Kleinerman noted that T-Mobile has made it easier for its customers to turn Binge On on or off on their devices.
“We think these changes, which T-Mobile is making for all users and video providers on a non-preferential basis, can help ensure that the program works well for all users and the entire video ecosystem,” Kleinerman wrote.
T-Mobile’s Binge On program is one in a series of “Un-Carrier” moves, meant to differentiate the company from larger carriers AT&T and Verizon, a broad push that has resulted in rapid growth for the Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless company. But Binge On has been criticized by Net Neutrality advocates who say it goes against the principles of treating all types of content equally.
“Look, Binge On is a game changer, and forcing change typically creates some controversy,” Legere said, addressing the criticism in the video announcement today. “It’s understandable. Innovation and change are hard. We listen, we learn, and we improve things.”
In addition to Google-owned YouTube, T-Mobile said Discovery GO, Fox Business and Red Bull TV are also among the new video partners joining the Binge On program. Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Video and many others already participate.
Legere concluded his video by promising more news to come: “We’re not done forcing change to this arrogant industry,” he said.