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Who — Other Than T-Mobile — Needs TVision?

T-Mobile’s announcement they’ll rejoin the streaming game with TVision is a questionable one.

Half its own take on a skinny (and affordable) bundle, half vMVPD competitor, the draw of the service — for customers — looks dubious. At the lowest price point ($10), it’s a minimalist service without big ticket items like sports and news. At the high end ($40-60), it’s a potentially overpriced FASTs competitor… and importantly, they’re free. With more content seemingly available for less by subscribing to any number of competitors, who really needs this new addition to the growing pile of streaming options?

T-Mobile and others are so interested in streaming, of course, because of its seemingly endless potential as it streaming takes over all of TV. T-Mobile also wants to juice up its own upcoming 5G rollout, so they’ll offer fixed broadband and throw this in as part of the deal. Wireless competitors Verizon and AT&T already have television plays of their own, so T-Mobile being largely left out to this point was certainly a blind spot, comparatively. But this late in the game, it’s hard not to feel like it’s just too little, too late.

Even more critically, “TVision” isn’t even a unique name, since it’s also a TV data company.

T-Mobile’s TVision has reviews coming in already and the biggest takeaway seems to be that it’s “basic.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as complicated user interfaces provide easy excuses for consumers to drop services. And the quicker a viewer can get to the content they want, the quicker they’re watching ads (and the more TVision’s gleaning from their viewing habits).

Yet, there are some minimum boxes that still need to be checked, namely the lack of a true recommendation engine. Virtually all competitive services have this feature, including those from wireless foes AT&T (AT&T Now, DirecTV, HBO Max) and Verizon (Fios TV), so its absence is pretty glaring.

One place where TVision does pretty well, though, is in terms of price. TVision Vibe, the lowest tier at $10, features a long list of cable networks, but not broadcast networks, sports or news — regularly the biggest draws for linear and live TV streaming plans. Those networks join in the more money you spend beyond the bottom tier (from $40 to up to $60), but importantly, CBS isn’t included there.

While NBC content is here as well as Peacock, CBS is not included as it is on other streaming services — including its own, the soon-to-be-rebranded Paramount+. Given the popularity of CBS shows and the draw of sports programming like the NFL, SEC football and March Madness (that all appear on CBS), that could be a dealbreaker for many.

Really, TVision isn’t a bad idea in practice. The problem is just that it’s late to the game. If you’re a cable junkie (do these people exist anymore in the age of streaming?), you probably have most of these from other linear or streaming services. The broadcast networks appear in full on other services. Sports and news are core parts of most TV plans.

If TVision was first to market, it would potentially be a standard-bearer for what a streaming bundle should look like. The issue is there are countless options that already exist and check most if not all of these boxes for consumers. In an environment where consumers are (or were earlier this year) subscribed to at least four streaming services, is there room for another? And if not, which could TVision potentially displace?

Just weeks after Quibi called it quits, the level of skepticism about nascent streaming services will remain high. T-Mobile has the advantage of being an established brand, of course. Yet, one could argue founder Jeffrey Katzenberg was too, at least in the TV industry. At least T-Mobile isn’t burning through the same sort of spending Quibi did to get off the ground. The brand’s 5G launch is probably what decides TVision’s fate more than anything else.