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Week In Review: Verizon To Start Rolling Out 5G On October 1st, AT&T Wants To Bundle HBO with Turner and Warner

Verizon To Start Rolling Out 5G On October 1st

Verizon, which, as we’ve noted, seems to be going the “we’re a technology company” route, is going to be rolling out 5G slightly ahead of the rest of the pack.

Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento are the lucky cities chosen for the initial test, which includes a whole goody bag’s worth of extras: three free months of service, three free months of YouTube TV, and a free Chromecast or Apple TV.

(That last one kind of baffles us. The Google Chromecast Ultra they’re giving away is just $70 at BestBuy, while the Apple TV 4K  device is $180. Seems like you should be able to get at least two Chromecasts if you go that route.)

Regardless, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Speeds can go up to 1G, but Verizon warns they may be more like 300 mbps. That’s more than most people need though—100mbps is more than enough for the average family’s consumption habits.

Once the three month period is up, the 5G broadband will cost $70/month for most people but just $50/month for Verizon wireless customers. That’s about what you can expect to pay for cable broadband in those markets, but for much lower speeds.

Because Verizon is rushing it out, they’ll need to roll trucks to install it. (We think. It’s unclear if the slightly tech savvy among us will be able to set it up themselves, since it seems to mostly involve turning on a modem and then connecting all your streaming devices, laptops, smartphones, etc.)

Why It Matters

The launch of 5G, if it’s successful, will have a huge impact, as it breaks the monopoly hold that MVPDs have over broadband in the US—55% of markets have no real competition, and it’s a duopoly everywhere else.

Verizon will be first in, but AT&T and T-Mobile are not far behind. With multiple options, consumers can be choosy and the broadband providers will actually have to try and win them over, which will likely lead to price wars and all that.

So it’s a good time to be a broadband consumers.

It also makes the rollback of net neutrality a relatively moot point. In a monopoly market, one bad actor could actually cause problems, but when there are a half dozen companies providing broadband, consumers can easily vote with their wallets and not choose companies that don’t abide by the principles of net neutrality.

5G is also good news for vMVPDs, as falling broadband prices means those double play packages become less interesting to consumers as does the notion of being tied to a two-year contract. While Verizon has a deal with YouTube TV now, they may also team up with other vMVPDs down the road and possibly even bundle the two service together. (They can even throw in a Spotify or Pandora subscription too, just to sweeten the deal.)

From an advertiser POV, the fact that the 5G networks will eventually be national means that they can start running targeted ads nationally via the 5G broadband servers, which will have the ability to hit mobile devices too, if those mobile devices are on the same service. (Probably. Verizon was allegedly loathe to share wireless user data with Oath, but they may see 5G as a form of mobile and play along. Either way, there will be more digitally delivered television, which means more delivery systems that are equipped to deliver both addressable advertising and advanced units that rely on digital-style audience segmentation.)

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a vMVPD, you should figure out your 5G strategy. Consumers switching their broadband providers are a prime target for switching their TV service, and YouTube TV was smart to get on board. There will likely be connectivity and other service quality issues at first, but those will be resolved soon enough, and getting in early will seem like a good idea.

If you’re a network or streaming service, 5G just means more places to run your programming.

If you’re an advertiser, it’s a way to get more more linear addressable into your schedule. (Eventually.)

And if you’re Charter—you may be screwed. There are lots of unhappy former Time Warner customers in LA and 5G from a well regarded company like Verizon may seem like a perfect way to stick it to the man. Time to dial up the customer service part of your business while simultaneously coming up with a product that can take on 5G.


2.  AT&T Wants To Bundle HBO with Turner and Warner

After comparing HBO to Tiffany and Netflix to Walmart (we get what he meant despite all the flack that comment got) AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson also let drop that he was considering an OTT service that bundles together HBO with the Turner networks and the Warner library.

Why It Matters

This is a very smart move.

HBO, as Stephenson himself noted, has a very high churn rate because there are huge gaps between the programs people want to see and little reason to keep paying $15/month during those gaps.

For a while people didn’t bother to unsubscribe because it meant calling up their MVPD and spending hours on a phone chain only to find that they’d wind up paying $5/month more without HBO, as they’d undone their SuperPlatinumUltraHD Triple Play bundle.

Clicking “unsubscribe” on the HBO NOW website was a completely different matter though, and lots of people clearly did.

By adding all that additional programming, AT&T now gives HBO subscribers a reason to keep on subscribing. (Basketball games on TNT! News from CNN! The Alienist!)

That’s huge and it will allow them to continue to take on Netflix and win. (Or at least not lose.)

That’s our Binge List theory in action: people have a list of about a half dozen shows they plan to watch. If you can keep just one of your shows on that list, the viewer is going to keep on subscribing.

If there’s a three month gap between Westworld and Game Of Thrones, the viewer may decide it’s not worth it to unsubscribe if there’s enough other stuff on the new greater HBO app. So long as they might want to watch an NBA game or some CNN show, the hassle of unsubscribing and resubscribing will likely seem like too much of a bother.

It’s also a way to prove that TV isn’t about making well targeted shows. It’s about making good shows.

What You Need To Do About It

What AT&T is doing is creating a new type of bundle and we suspect that someone else will start bundling those bundles together to create a more cost-effective way to get all your TV programming from a single source, since, for most people, keeping track of all those individual subscriptions is a hassle, and they’ll be willing to pay a bit more to have it all in one place.

So if you’re a network, an MVPD or a streaming device or smart TV OEM, that’s a very pertinent piece of information we’d suggest you keep in mind.