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Week In Review: T-Mobile vMVPD Service Might Launch in 2019, NBCU Might (Finally) Launch A DTC Service Too

1. T-Mobile vMVPD Service Might Launch in 2019

So it seems that T-Mobile is not going to launch its TV service in 2018. Which, given that there are just 10 days left in 2018, isn’t all that much of a surprise.

Why It Matters

What’s more of a surprise, TBH, is that anyone expected they would. T-Mobile bought a small provider called Layer3 that had a successful-ish business selling what it was billing as a high-end service (white gloves on the Tesla-driving installers—for realz) to viewers in Chicago and DC.

The rapid transformation of that business into something that T-Mobile could legitimately call “disruptive” seemed like a long shot. There are a lot of moving pieces in TV. And while the notion of T-Mobile using fixed 5G connections (e.g. in-home 5G modems) to sell a double-play package isn’t all that radical and actually makes a lot of sense, there appear to be all sorts of legal issues holding them up, mostly centered around the notion that 5G broadcasts are, for legal purposes, “mobile” broadcasts.

Which is sort of fitting in that while many of us had reached the conclusion that no one was actually watching TV on a smartphone unless (a) they were away from home during a major sporting event or (b) a 14 year-old wanting to avoid their parents,  the TV industry’s lawyers aren’t there quite yet and so fixed 5G broadcasts to the home are actually still “mobile”.

(There are Nielsen stats to the effect that close to 90% of OTT viewing happens on an actual TV set and Hulu has said their percentages are at around 80%. Just in case you thought we were making this up.)

What You Need To Do About It

Not much right now. Next year promises to be a year of major shake-ups and shake-outs as all the various Flixes get launched and take shape and so the need for yet another vMVPD isn’t all that pressing. Even a vMVPD with a bright pink logo.

OTOH, T-Mobile’s entry into the broadband market via its fixed 5G modems should cause both improvements in customer service as well as price wars as the no-longer-monopolist MVPDs need to actually, you know,  do something to attract customers.


2. NBCU Might (Finally) Launch A DTC Service Too

NBCU CEO Steve Burke sent out a witty little ditty in his end of year email to the troops, penning “While you all go off to relax, swim or ski, maybe, just maybe, next year we will announce our plan for OTT.”

Why It Matters

While his rhythm may be off some, his timing is spot on. NBCU is the only major network whose OTT plan seems to be “we don’t have one yet” and in the first mover-advantaged world of TV, that’s probably not a great idea.

Now that NBCU parent Comcast owns Sky, there are all sorts of distribution options.

Not to mention that Comcast still owns 30% of Hulu.

As we’ve noted many, many, many time before, it would probably make sense for Comcast to team up with Disney on Hulu and use Sky as a way to bring Disney into Europe while reaping the benefits of over 20 million existing US Hulu subscribers (plus a booming Hulu vMVPD.)

But given Hollywood, and the whole thing with trying to buy Fox, that’s probably not going to happen.

There are rumors that Comcast may throw its lot in with AT&T, given that they’re both MVPDs and all, but that three-tier thing Warner is planning may give them pause, especially since only one of those tiers seems to offer a logical home for NBCU. (Maybe two, if they’re willing to split the movies off.)

What You Need To Do About It

There’s a whole lot to keep on eye on here—does NBCU launch a CBS All Access-like OTT app, do they cast their lot with Disney/Hulu or AT&T/Warner, or do they go in a completely different direction?

None of those are a sure bet right now, but one piece of that puzzle worth bearing in mind that NBCU has a lot more programming than its peers—in addition to the various permutations of NBC (CNBC, MSNBC), it’s got all of Bravo, Oxygen, SyFy, Cloo, USA, plus all those Universal Pictures movies. It’s also owned by Comcast, which has been pushing all manner of new ad tech and measurement product.

So look for a cliffhanger sometime in Q1 or Q2 of 2019.