Only five months after announcing its TVision streaming service, T-Mobile today shared news that TVision’s three bundles of live channels will all shut down at the end of April. The development comes as part of T-Mobile’s new partnership with Google and YouTube, which it’s making out to be a huge deal. The carrier says YouTube TV will now fill the role of its “live TV solution.” It’s also positioning Philo TV as the replacement for its base offering.
The Live, Live Plus, and Live Zone services that were available with TVision will go dark on April 29th.
T-Mobile is giving a free month of YouTube TV to customers who had signed up for one of the TVision Live packages, and all T-Mobile subscribers will be eligible to save $10 on the usual monthly rate of $64.99; so if they want the service, it’ll cost $54.99 per month. They can also get three free months of YouTube Premium. On Philo’s side, customers can also get $10 off the usual price.
“YouTube TV is a leader in this space,” T-Mobile said in today’s press release. “It offers the same great flexibility, robust content and convenience that TVision customers love.” The message is clear: T-Mobile is teaming up with a company that has been in this game longer and is already familiar with everything it takes to make streaming, watch-anywhere TV work — even if it feels like the costs keep climbing higher.
In what comes off as an attempt to sugarcoat a short-lived misstep, T-Mobile says its “TVision initiative was launched to give customers new choices and help millions cut the cord, while expanding appeal for the company’s forthcoming wireless home Internet service.” That doesn’t quite match the usual brazen “Uncarrier” tone that T-Mobile had back in October, when CEO Mike Sievert said “just like we changed wireless for good, now we’re gonna change TV for good.” At the time, T-Mobile said TVision Live was “a total game-changer for anyone who wants live news and sports.”
Sievert has now changed his tune. In a blog post today, he acknowledged that TV is better “with friends,” and went into more detail on what led to T-Mobile’s revamped approach:
This shift may surprise some given last year’s TVision streaming services launch. But innovation seldom follows a straight line. Since launching the TVision initiative, we’ve learned a lot about the TV industry, about streaming products, and of course, about TV customers. We also saw trends that made us take a fresh look at how to best do in video what we always do: put customers first. With our TV software provider encountering some financial challenges and with our broader, strategic partnerships with Google and Philo, we saw an opportunity to deliver unique value to our customers and strengthen the TVision initiative with the best partners.
This industry is incredibly fragmented, with new streaming services launching all the time, and we’ve concluded that we can add even more value to consumers’ TV choices by partnering with the best services out there, negotiating incredible streaming media deals for T-Mobile customers, and helping our customers navigate the increasingly complex streaming world.
Sievert describes the new arrangement as “a big upgrade,” adding that “YouTube TV offers more than twice as many channels as TVision Live, and Philo offers nearly twice as many channels as TVision Vibe.”
TVision Live had started at $40 / month, with Live Plus and Live Zone each increasing by another $10. As other internet TV providers know, it’s unlikely that T-Mobile would’ve been able to hang on to those lower tiers for long.
TVision Vibe — a $10-per-month service that provides on-demand access (but not live streams) to shows from AMC, Discovery, MTV, and other networks — is also being phased out. Same goes for TVision Channels, which lets customers aggregate their subscriptions from Showtime, Stars, and Epix. The TVision Hub 4K streaming dongle will remain available, and it sounds like YouTube TV will now get a prominent spot on that device.
You can look at this as a retreat on T-Mobile’s part, but I think its decision is probably the right one. YouTube TV remains the streaming TV service to beat, and there just wasn’t enough about TVision to make it stand out among YTTV and other competitors. Any price advantage was never going to last. Above all else, T-Mobile is still touting its strong 5G network advantage, as evidenced by the Magenta Max data plan it announced in late February. The plan is the only one among major carriers to lift any deprioritization limits on data usage.
Update March 29th, 4:25PM ET: The article has been updated with more details on T-Mobile’s revamped TV approach, with new details on Philo’s role in the initiative and a blog post from T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.