T-Mobile’s latest “Un-Carrier” move — adding free Netflix subscriptions to new and existing T-Mobile One family plans — aims to further differentiate T-Mobile from its larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon, while helping the company lure new customers and retain existing ones.
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But underpinning the move is a shift in how people consume content, and the rise of smartphones as a dominant entertainment gadget, T-Mobile’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert told GeekWire in an interview at the company’s Bellevue, Wash. headquarters Wednesday.
“This is really about a recognition that things are changing in our industry,” Sievert said of the Netflix partnership. “This is about understanding that content of all kinds is landing on the internet, and the internet is going mobile, so there’s a massive convergence happening.”
Under the new program, dubbed “Netflix On Us,” T-Mobile says it will provide a free Netflix standard subscription to T-Mobile One customers with two or more voice lines. The cost will remain $40 per line. The company says it will cover the cost of Netflix for those who already subscribe to the streaming service.
Sievert wouldn’t say exactly what percentage of T-Mobile’s customer base is eligible for the program, but he did note that family plans represent the “vast majority” of T-Mobile customers. Don’t expect to see the Netflix deal extended to non-family plans any time soon, as customers need to have a “big enough relationship with us for us to be able to afford this,” Sievert said.
Sievert mentioned several times that T-Mobile isn’t getting much of a deal from Netflix on these plans, though he wouldn’t say exactly how much the partnership is costing T-Mobile.
“We weren’t able to get a giant discount,” Sievert said. “We’re paying, and we’re putting customers first, and that’s something we are really proud to be in a position to do.”
As is T-Mobile custom, Sievert also took some shots at competitors. He lambasted AT&T’s deal to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion in 2015 and offer its own streaming service, DirectTV Now. He claimed that the other wireless companies are using changing media trends to wring more money out of customers, while asserting that T-Mobile is all about giving customers the best bang for the buck.
“We are looking for an opportunity to add value for our customers and solve their pain points. It’s so different from what our competitors are doing. They are seeing dollar signs, how they can slam their customers with big fat juicy bundles inspired by the way big cable has always operated,” Seivert said.
T-Mobile is all about disruption, so it’s fitting that Sievert chose an offbeat way to celebrate the new partnership. Instead of popping champagne, he closed out our interview by smashing a bag of T-Mobile-branded popcorn all over the floor.