T-Mobile Preparing to Disrupt Pay TV

WHY THIS MATTERS: T-Mobile banks on the “Uncarrier” approach working for pay TV as well.

T-MOBILE has not spilled all the beans on its coming, national over-the-top TV service with respect to pricing and packaging, but the company remains firm in its commitment to deliver something that will disrupt the pay TV industry.

That’s according to Jeff Binder, a keynote speaker at the Pay TV Show in Denver, who confirmed that T-Mobile is still on track to launch its national OTT TV offering later this year.

T-Mobile’s big move into the pay TV arena follows its recent acquisition of Denver-based Layer3 TV. Binder, who cofounded Layer3 TV and served as its CEO, is now executive VP of home and entertainment at T-Mobile and running point on the wireless carrier’s new pay TV efforts.

Prior to the acquisition, Layer3 TV was largely focused on an in-home, full-freight pay TV service with 4K-capable boxes delivered over IP. Moving forward, T-Mobile’s plan is to bridge the TV with the more advanced and personalized capabilities that consumers get with their smartphones.

The TV has “been an island in the home,” Binder said. “Mobile and TV [today] look more alike than less alike.” T-Mobile intends to change that, he said, adding that the plan is also bring T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” principles to the pay TV realm.

“It’s more than branding,” Binder said of the Uncarrier approach, holding that T-Mobile’s methodology has changed the wireless/mobile industry.

Pay TV, which continues to see subscriber numbers erode, is “ripe for disruption in that sense,” he added.

He added that the T-Mobile deal would bring scale that Layer3 TV didn’t have on its own.

Before the deal, Layer3 TV was focused on an in-home product in a handful of markets, and found that the acquisition costs “were pretty reasonable,” Binder said.

However, the big challenges for a new, relatively small entrant are reach and cost of marketing, Binder pointed out. “You need scale,” he said. “Scale is really important.”

Binder also hinted that the coming product won’t be a mobile-only play or rely solely on TV-connected devices that would only come from the company.

“We’ll look at various ways to serve what the customers want,” he said. “It’s about how customers want to consume video.”

Binder also touted 5G, and its promise of faster speeds and lower latencies, as a solid platform for wide-scale video distribution.

Calling 5G “the perfect delivery mechanism for video,” Binder reiterated that leading this wave is a key component of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.