T-Mobile Looks to Avoid ‘Subscription Palooza’

Wireless company says it will finally launch a new video service later this year that looks more like Amazon Channels than a vMVPD
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Fourteen months after acquiring pay TV start-up Layer3 TV and promising massive disruption of the video business with a new nationally distributed service, T-Mobile says it’s finally ready to unveil its new platform in the first half of this year.

Don’t look for the third biggest wireless carrier in the U.S. to compete in the crowded virtual pay TV market, where DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu+ with Live TV, YouTube TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, fuboTV and others are competing with similar linear-like bundles of live-streamed networks.

What T-Mobile is describing is an a la carte, subscription aggregation model that sounds like—wait for it—Amazon Channels.

“We don't have plans to develop an undifferentiated skinny bundle out there,” said T-Mobile President and COO Mike Sievert, speaking during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday. :There are plenty of those. We think there's a more nuanced role for us to play in helping you get access to the great media brands out there that you love, and to be able to put together your own media subscription in smaller pieces $5, $6 $7, $8 at a time.”

But while it sees a future in aggregating the subscriptions of other services, Sievert also joined the legion of video executives putting the yellow caution flag up in terms of peddling its own subscription service, with Disney and WarnerMedia set to launch new paywalled platforms in the next 24 months.

“It’s subscription palooza out there,” Sievert said. “Every single media brand either has or is developing an OTT solution, and most of these companies don't have a way to bring these products to market. They're learning about that. They don't have distributed networks like us. They don't have access to the phones like we have.”

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