So we've noted for a while that T-Mobile's brand reputation as a fiesty consumer-friendly disruptor is only really skin deep. While the T-Mobile of a few years ago certainly added some much needed competition to the wireless sector at first, more recently the company has started to look a lot like the bigger competitors (AT&T, Verizon) it pretends to be superior to. From mocking groups like the EFF to opposing net neutrality, the company isn't all that different from the companies its brash CEO likes to make fun of. Especially as it snuggles up to Trump to gain approval for a merger with that Sprint nobody asked for.
Meanwhile, the company's promised efforts at "disruption" aren't quite what they used to be either. The company's long-hyped new TV service, for example, was unveiled this week and doesn't appear to be much different from the traditional offerings the company had promised to supplant:
"Ignoring the trend toward less or no hardware, T-Mobile is introducing TVision, a cookbook-size box that must be plugged into home broadband connections. The $100-a-month, in-home TV package will be offered in eight cities, starting with 150 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports networks. Some streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will be loaded on the device, though they’ll require separate subscriptions. Premium channels like HBO will also cost extra."
In short, T-Mobile appears to have simply re-invented the bloated cable TV bundle and cable box. That's not likely to appeal to users who can simply go out and buy their own streaming hardware, then install a universe of independent streaming apps they can rotate in and out at their leisure. Of course entertaining T-Mobile CEO John Legere dressed the new product (which is basically just a reskinning of the pricey Layer3 TV service it acquired a few years back) as something substantively more revolutionary than it actually is:
The #Uncarrier has already changed wireless for good… and by upgrading Layer3 TV to @TVision, we move one step closer to taking on The Cabelopoly!! Un-cable 1.0 is coming and millions of Americans will have the opportunity to cut the cord for good 🔌🚫 https://t.co/VU1tCJ3Iat
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) April 10, 2019
Legere has spent the last few years mercilessly mocking (often quite justly) both AT&T and Verizon's own forays into video, only to release something that is just as droll. There's not much here that's likely to make much headway into the market, given the entire point of "cutting the cord" is to get away from expensive channel bundles and locked down set top boxes in the first place.
Watching T-Mobile change over the next few years is going to be interesting. The company effectively built its brand on being a consumer ally that's different from traditional, entrenched players. But as the company has pushed distortion after distortion in its bid to gain regulatory approval for its Sprint merger, it continues to prove that's not really the case. And if the deal's approved, the sudden 25% reduction in major competitors is going to open the door to less competition, higher prices, and less innovation--all of the things T-Mobile and CEO Legere profess to be breathlessly dedicated to.
Filed Under: disruption, john legere, mobile phone service, tv serviceCompanies: t-mobile