T-Mobile and Viacom this morning announced a deal that will bring Viacom’s TV channels — like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount and others — to T-Mobile’s new mobile video service planned for later this year. The agreement will allow T-Mobile to offer live, linear feeds of the Viacom channels as well as on-demand viewing.
To date, the carrier’s mobile video plans have been murky. Last year, T-Mobile acquired the Denver-based startup Layer3 TV in order to launch a new over-the-top video service in 2018. It missed that window, saying that it needed more time to work on features and make “quality improvements.”
The company later said that it didn’t want to offer another Amazon Channels-like “skinny bundle” consisting of individual subscriptions to various channels, but wanted to offer something more differentiated where customers could create their own media subscriptions in “smaller pieces,” like “five, six, seven or eight dollars at a time.”
Today, T-Mobile says it still plans to move forward with both its home and mobile TV offerings, made possible by the acquisition of Layer3 TV. The in-home TV service is designed to leverage 5G technology to replace cable. Meanwhile, Viacom will be a “cornerstone launch partner” for T-Mobile’s mobile TV efforts, on track for a launch this year.
“Viacom represents the best of the best, most-popular brands on cable, so they are an amazing partner for us,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement. “TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS. And MacGyvering together a bunch of subscriptions, apps and dongles isn’t much better. That’s why T-Mobile is on a mission to give consumers a better way to watch what they want, when they want,” he said.
Not much is known about T-Mobile’s mobile TV plans at this point, like a more specific launch time frame or price points. It’s also unclear if T-Mobile will go the route of bundling in its TV service with its mobile plans. That’s been a popular strategy for AT&T, which today operates two over-the-top services — a low-end service called WatchTV designed for bundling and its more premium service DirecTV Now. (It also plans to launch another featuring Warner Bros. content.)
Viacom has deals with other carriers besides T-Mobile, having recently renewed its contract with AT&T for DirecTV Now carriage. It also participates in various other streaming services, including its own service (by way of acquisition) Pluto TV, and has invested in Philo.
“Today’s landmark announcement marks a major step forward in our strategy to accelerate the presence of our brands on mobile and other next-generation platforms,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, in a release. “We’re so excited to partner with T-Mobile to provide millions of subscribers with access to our networks and more choice in a new service that will be unlike any other in the market.”