TVision Live is all about boosting T-Mobile, not winning a streaming war

T-Mobile TVision
(Image credit: T-Mobile)

There's a fallacy in the streaming era that goes something like this — there's a war going on for the eyeballs and attention of Americans, and in the end there can be only one.

That statement is half true. Indeed, pretty much every company that does anything digital is competing for our eyeballs and attention. That's just the way it is. But it's not a "war," and there won't only be one winner. And that's evidenced anew with the revamp of T-Mobile's TVision service.

As a refresher, TVision is built into three or four parts. There's TVision Live, which comprises three plans of live television channels, starting at $40 a month. Then there's TVision Vibe, which is a $10 bundle of entertainment channels that you can have on their own, or package along with TVision Live. And finally there's TVision Channels, which (for starters) lets you subscribe to the premium movie services EPIX, STARZ and Showtime, and manage them all through your T-Mobile account. (Just like Apple TV Channels or Amazon Prime Video Channels.)

The optional fourth part is the new TVision Hub — a $50 streaming dongle that's based on Android TV and probably will give you the best experience for all of the TVision services.

That's all well and good. But what TVision is not going to do is take away from the major streaming services anytime soon. Not Hulu with Live TV, which is the biggest live streaming service in the U.S. Not YouTube TV or Sling TV, which are Nos. 2 and 3 (though not necessarily in that order). And it's probably not even a big threat to a low-cost service like Philo, which gives you more than five dozen channels for just $20 a month.

Here's why: T-Mobile TVision is all about maximizing revenue for T-Mobile, not robbing users from elsewhere. And that's clear because in order to take advantage of T-Mobile TVision, you have to be a T-Mobile subscriber in the first place. And to be fair, there are some 98.3 million T-Mobile subscribers (remember that it swallowed up Sprint) out there as of its Q2 2020 earnings, placing it just behind Verizon Wireless on that list. (AT&T is third.) That's nearly 100 million subscribers who now have the opportunity to give T-Mobile even more money every month. 

Should someone hop over from Verizon or AT&T or one of the smaller names that actually use the services of the Big Three and sign up for TVision, great. But chances are even with churn levels being what they are, TVision itself isn't going to be a huge differentiator. AT&T likely would be the bigger draw due to the discounts it gives if you bundle wireless and home internet and streaming TV, plus sweeteners like HBO Max on top. (There's a joke to be made here about Verizon's defunct Go90 video service, but only something like a dozen of us in the industry would get it.)

If TVision — which very quickly can hit $50 or $60 a month, never mind the "starts at $10 line" for TVision Vibe — keeps you from signing up for YouTube TV, or FuboTV or Sling or any of the others, TMo is happy to take your money. Somewhere there's a chart showing acquisition costs and ARPU and it almost certainly is up and to the right.

Just don't expect it to kill off any of the competition anytime soon.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.