Viacom networks will be a major part of T-Mobile’s forthcoming mobile video service, the companies announced Wednesday.
The pair said they inked a significant content distribution deal that will bring live linear feeds of Viacom’s popular channels including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount, together with a “broad range” of on-demand content, to T-Mobile customers later this year.
T-Mobile hasn’t disclosed exact launch timing, pricing and or other details about the mobile TV offering.
T-Mobile had been touting plans to launch a ‘disruptive’ new pay TV service since late 2017 when the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier first announced its acquisition of MVPD Layer3 TV. Initially T-Mobile said the wireless TV service would launch in 2018 and be accessible at home or on the go, but that timeline was subsequently pushed back.
The company says it’s been at work with the Layer3 team and technology, readying its “first wave” of home and mobile TV offerings. First to launch will be an in-home TV offering meant to replace traditional cable TV, followed by mobile TV services, with Viacom as a “cornerstone” launch partner.
T-Mobile said the in-home TV service is designed for the 5G era, but exactly if or how programming will differ from Layer3’s existing TV service is unclear.
Last year in FCC filings related to T-Mobile’s proposed acquisition of Sprint, T-Mobile said it would rebrand the Layer3 TV offering to bring “wireless first” TV to urban and rural customers, and be able to offer bundled wireless TV and internet service to a greater number of customers via a 5G network.
T-Mobile also recently began piloting fixed wireless 4G in-home broadband services while it pursues regulatory approval for the Sprint deal.
The Viacom deal is the first major content announcement for the mobile TV service, on which details have been light. In a news release about the Viacom deal, T-Mobile CEO John Legere pointed to common TV consumer pain points, including the growing issue of needing to navigate between multiple platforms for content.
“TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS,” Legere said in a statement. “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.”
Still, just how T-Mobile will differentiate itself in a growing pool of streaming competitors, including AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu, among others, is yet to be seen.
Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement that the new entertainment service “represents an important evolution in how audiences consume our content.”
“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, and 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,” Bakish added.
In March, AT&T announced it was slimming down its DirecTV Now video offerings and dropping Viacom programming from its packages as distribution contract negotiations heated up. Since then the pair reached a carriage renewal and confirmed that networks including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick. Jr, and VH1 would return to the DirecTV Now service.