T-Mobile says it will launch its own TV service in 2018, expanding its competitive focus beyond the U.S. wireless giants to target major cable and satellite providers with its latest “Uncarrier” initiative.
The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless company says it will acquire Layer3 TV Inc., a Denver, Colo.-based television technology company started by cable veterans, leveraging Layer3’s technology and team to provide the underpinnings for the new T-Mobile TV service.
T-Mobile didn’t give details about the new TV service, but implied it would follow a playbook similar to the ways it sought to disrupt the wireless industry. Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s COO, called out cable and wireless companies on a call with reporters and investors for forcing people to take on extra services on big contractural commitments.
“These kinds of tactics, locking people down with multi-year contracts, slamming people with fees, onerous terms, sky-high pricing, bundles people don’t want, terrible customer service,” are all problems T-Mobile will tackle with its new TV service, Sievert said.
A look at Layer3’s service gives a peek into what T-Mobile’s new TV offering might look like. Layer3 customers can create separate profiles for each member of the family, giving every user a customized experience. Layer3’s cable box does not require a cable jack and can connect to WiFi, making it easy for users to pick up and watch on any device.
Sievert said the new service will be an “all IP architecture,” focused on letting people watch on any screen. T-Mobile and Layer3 executives said the service could be available as an app on an Apple TV, for example, in addition to having a physical set-top box.
In a video announcement, T-Mobile CEO John Legere makes it clear that he will take on cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Frontier with the same competitive zeal that he has applied to Sprint, AT&T and Verizon.
“It’s no secret that these guys are the absolute worst,” Legere says of the major cable TV and satellite providers.
T-Mobile is aiming to disrupt the industry beyond just customers. Advertising for TV, Sievert said, is out of date because it doesn’t offer targeting capabilities. Without disclosing exact details, T-Mobile executives said the new service will offer the kind of targeted ad capabilities seen in digital advertising.
Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3, said his company has been working to change how cable providers negotiate with cable networks. Layer3, Binder says, has every major network on its service, and part of the reason why is because it wants to have a collaborative relationship with networks versus the more common adversarial one.
The plan is T-Mobile’s latest move into video, following its “Binge On” initiative for unlimited mobile video streaming, and its incorporation of Netflix subscriptions into its T-Mobile One family plans.
T-Mobile has deployed an aggressive marketing campaign in recent years, branding the company as the wireless “Uncarrier.” The initiative includes new pricing strategies, subscriber benefits and promotions that have, at times, forced T-Mobile competitors Verizon, Sprint and AT&T to change their own wireless packages and promotions. T-Mobile has been steadily adding subscribers for several years under this strategy, at a clip of more than 1 million net customer additions a quarter.