Report: Amazon Eyeing Boost Mobile Pre-Paid Wireless Service

Amazon reportedly is considering acquiring Boost Mobile, the prepaid cellphone service owned by Sprint Corp.

Sprint, which is attempting to merge with T-Mobile to become “New T-Mobile” for $26 billion, is spinning off Boost in an effort to appease federal regulators.

Reuters, which first reported the story citing sources familiar with the situation, said Amazon’s interest revolves around the ability to use T-Mobile’s wireless network and access wireless spectrum for six years as part of any transaction.

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Wireless spectrum enables the flow of digital data, including sound and video. Spectrum helps deliver voice and video between cell phones, television shows from broadcasters and online information between computers.

In addition to e-commerce, SVOD and digital books and music, Amazon has become one of the world’s largest cloud-based services through its AWS (Amazon Web Services) subsidiary.

T-Mobile Downgrades ‘Netflix on Us’ Offer

T-Mobile is changing its “Netflix on Us” offer with its two main unlimited postpaid plans.

No longer will subscribers get the Netflix Standard service, with two concurrent streams per account and video resolution of up to 1080p, at no charge. Because Netflix has raised the price of that plan by $2 from $10.99 to $12.99 per month, T-Mobile will start passing on the extra $2 price to its customers.

Customers with the two T-Mobile plans, rebranded to Magenta, can get the Netflix Basic plan, with one stream and video resolution to 480p, at no extra charge. That plan normally costs $8.99 per month.

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“To account for the Netflix price increase earlier this year, Magenta includes Netflix Basic for families,” read a T-Mobile release. “Existing T-Mobile One customers with Netflix on Us that includes Netflix Standard will see the Netflix price change of $2 per month for Netflix Standard passed through starting in July. To avoid that, those customers can either turn off Netflix on Us or change to Magenta.”

T-Mobile began offering the free Netflix promotion in 2017.

T-Mobile Launching Online TV Platform

T-Mobile April 10 bowed “TVision Home,” a rebranded version of Layer3 TV launching April 14 in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. metro areas, as well as Longmont, Co., with other markets coming later this year.

The platform bows at $90/month (including a $9.99/month discount for T-Mobile customers … but available to everyone for a limited time), which includes 150+ channels, local broadcast, regional sports and more. Plus $10/month per connected TV, including DVR for a limited time.

Premium TV packages – like HBO, Showtime and others – or transactional VOD and digital movie/TV show purchases are extra.

T-Mobile is joining a crowded online TV market created in 2015 by Dish Network’s Sling TV. Other players include DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, Charter Spectrum Plus, Fubo TV, Hulu with Live TV, Philo and AT&T Watch TV.

T-Mobile, which inked a content deal with Viacom last week, said Netflix and other streaming apps will be available on the platform.

To generate buzz, the telecom is offering to pay off early contract termination fees for Dish and DirecTV customers, up to $500 via prepaid card, when they switch to TVision Home.

“Today’s news brings us one step closer to taking on big cable,” CEO John Legere said in a statement.

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TVision Home claims “the most” 4K channels as part of more than 275 available channels, 35,000 on-demand movies, TV shows in addition to on-screen social content, personalized home screen, 1 terabyte DVR storage, smart speaker voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Apps at launch include Pandora, iHeartRadio, XUMO, CuriosityStream, Toon Goggles, HSN, Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids. T-Mobile will soon release a companion app for iOS and Android, allowing users to stream content to a smartphone anywhere in the house.

TVision Home is part of T-Mobile’s forward 5G strategy that starts with the Sprint merger – pending regulatory approval.

Claiming that almost half of the country’s households, and more than 76% of rural households have no high-speed service (100 Mbps average), T-Mobile claims that if the merger is approved, the combined company will have the scale and capacity to create a supercharged 5G network capable of reaching over half the country’s households with high-speed broadband by 2024.

“TVision Home is about so much more than home TV… it’s TV built for the 5G era,” said COO Mike Sievert. “With New T-Mobile, we’ll bring real choice, competition, better service, lower prices and faster speeds…right into your living room.

Viacom Inks Content Distribution Deal with T-Mobile

T-Mobile and Viacom April 3 announced they have entered into a content distribution agreement. Under terms of the deal, Viacom’s brands — MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Paramount — will play a key role in T-Mobile’s pending mobile video services to consumers later this year.

The deal enables T-Mobile to bring together live linear feeds of Viacom channels as well as a broad range of on-demand content to serve the carrier’s nearly 80 million customers.

“TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS,” John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, said in a statement. And ‘Macgyvering’ together a bunch of subscriptions, apps and dongles isn’t much better.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere

For Viacom, the agreement is another strategic effort to expand the media giant’s lagging digital footprint. The company recently acquired ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV.

‘[It] marks a major step forward in our strategy to accelerate the presence of our brands on mobile and other next-generation platforms,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish.

Last year, T-Mobile acquired cable TV disruptor Layer3 TV, and with that team, talent and technology, the company has been readying its first wave of home and mobile TV offerings.

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In recent months, T-Mobile executives have shared some of the company’s plans to launch first with an in-home TV solution, designed to replace cable for the 5G era, and longer term, executives say the company will introduce mobile TV services beginning with Viacom as a cornerstone launch partner.

 

DOJ Antitrust Boss: ‘You Learn More From Losing’

Following legal rebuke at the lower federal court and subsequent appeals court level regarding efforts to block AT&T’s $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner, the Department of Justice’s Makan Delrahim, head of the agency’s antitrust unit, said more was learned in defeat than in winning the litigation.

Speaking March 20 at the American Communications Association’s confab in Washington, D.C., Delrahim said legal challenges to future corporate vertical mergers — such as Sprint’s pending merger with T-Mobile — were empowered following the AT&T/Time Warner challenge.

“There are many lessons to be learned from the U.S. v. AT&T,” Delrahim said, according to a recording released by the ACA and reported by Deadline.com. “Given the standard of review that we were facing, [the outcome] wasn’t a surprise. You learn more from losing than from winning.”

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Specifically, the executive contends future legal challenges by the DOJ will be based more on structural changes rather than behavior.

Delrahim said the government’s approval of Comcast’s $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal in 2009 revolved around behavior/consent remedies the cable giant was beholden to follow for a number of years — including silent partnership in Hulu.

Similar regulatory approach to AT&T/Time Warner wouldn’t have been worth the compromise, according to Delrahim.

“The AT&T offer will expire in less than seven years,” he said. “The new market structure [i.e. WarnerMedia] created by the transaction will remain indefinitely. If there’s harm that the arbitration offer is necessary to solve, then there’s likely to be harm in the future that will remain after the arbitration offer expires.”

Delrahim said the silver lining from the appeals court ruling was that some vertical mergers can be harmful to consumers — provided the government proves its case.

“The [appeals court] corrected many of the District Court’s misstatements and articulated a standard that is valuable,” he said.

Sprint Calls Out AT&T Over ‘False’ 5G Claims

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

AT&T and Verizon have been among the first wireless carriers offering 5G networks in the country. AT&T last December said it become the first telecom in the United States offering 5G wireless service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

Indeed, consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Yet, 5G is still more marketing than reality. Availability of 5G-compatible phones to consumers might occur by the end of the year — with mainstream usage on par with 4G LTE years away, according to analysts.

That’s why Sprint is calling foul on AT&T regarding what it claims are false advertising and deceptive acts by the corporate parent to WarnerMedia to confuse consumers.

Sprint, which claims to have 54.5 million subscribers and is attempting merge with T-Mobile, took out a full-page ad in the March 10 edition of The New York Times accusing AT&T of allegedly deceiving consumers into believing that their existing 4G LTE network operates on a much-coveted and highly anticipated 5G network.

A recent survey commissioned by Sprint found 54% of consumers mistakenly believed, based on AT&T’s claims, that the company’s 5G E network is the same as or better than a true 5G network. Another 43% of consumers wrongly believed that if they were to purchase an AT&T phone today, it would be capable of running on a 5G network.

“AT&T is not offering its customers 5G but is delighted by the confusion they’ve caused with their deceptive ‘5G E’ marketing and attempt to convince consumers that they’ve already won the 5G race,” David Tovar, SVP, corporate communications, at Sprint said in a statement. “We’re not standing for this kind of deception, and neither should consumers.”

Indeed, Sprint filed a federal lawsuit asking that AT&T’s ads be stopped.

“Every carrier – every company – should tell consumers the truth and be held accountable for the promises they make,” Tovar said.

An AT&T representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

Disney/Verizon Partnering for 5G Media, Entertainment

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications reportedly are partnering to explore entertainment and media opportunities in the nascent 5G wireless network platform.

5G claims to be able to deliver upwards of 10 gigabits of data per second, which could enable the downloading of a movie within seconds on a smartphone versus many minutes on 4G.

Disney’s upstart StudioLab unit is working with Verizon testing 5G applications for the distribution of content.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Disney Studios, told Variety, which first reported the pact.

Verizon last October launched 5G network capability in four cities – a move rivaled by competitor AT&T. Still in the early stages of deployment and functionality, 5G marketing and hype – however – has shown no limits.

When AT&T recently changed the old 4G LTE logo to 5G on branded smartphones, Verizon (and T-Mobile) cried foul.

“The potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon wrote in a letter reported by Endgadget (which Verizon owns). “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities.”

T-Mobile, in a post on Twitter, was slightly less diplomatic, tweeting a video showing someone sticking a “9G” sticker on an iPhone with the following caption: “Didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating.”

Indeed, without a 5G-capable phone, simply claiming to be able to deliver content faster over old technology is disingenuous.

“People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications,” wrote Verizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netflix Clarifies Subscriber Growth Projections

Coming off a record fiscal third quarter in subscriber growth, Netflix is again sitting pretty atop the global subscription streaming video market with 137 million subs, including 130 million paid.

In the Oct. 16 fiscal interview webcast, co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings reiterated that the platform – going forward – would focus projections on paid subscribers rather than including new subscribers engaged in free trial service.

“We’re getting a little better on the forecasting in particular the evolution to paid net ads,” Hastings said.“So, I think by focusing going forward on paid, we’ll be able to be a little more accurate and focused on the fundamentals.”

The return to “fundamentals” underscores Netflix’s concern about the market’s backlash in the previous fiscal quarter when the service failed to meet Wall Street and its own subscriber growth projections – estimates that included free trials.

“If you look at that paid net ad growth, you can actually see how remarkably steady [we are],” Hastings said.

To sustain subscriber growth in the mature domestic market, Netflix is streamlining growth projections and focusing on bundling the service with pay-TV operators and mobile phone services, including recent deals with T-Mobile and Altice USA.

“There’s still pockets of consumers who – it’s harder for them to get the activation energy to go directly to the website and sign up, but if we can put … a call to action and bundle that the subscription as part of their pay-TV offering or the mobile offering, they can then get right into the service,” said chief product officer Greg Peters.

Globally, Netflix’s sub growth projections remain relatively unlimited for the near future. Much of that due to the service’s burgeoning presence in India – a country with more than 300 million mobile phone subscriptions.

“A couple hundred million people watching content through the Internet in India is a really exciting idea,” said CCO Ted Sarandos.

 

Netflix Finally Available on Sky

Netflix, beginning Sept. 19, is now available as a direct link to U.K. pay-TV service Sky – about six months after first announcing a partnership with the high-profile satellite TV operator.

The SVOD behemoth is available to Sky’s most-expensive Q bundle for an extra £10 monthly as part of Sky’s “Ultimate On Demand” add-on feature. Existing Netflix subscribers can link their account to Sky Q or log onto the Netflix app separately.

But direct access, including Netflix original programing on display alongside traditional pay-TV selections is precisely why multichannel video program distributors such as Comcast, Virgin Media (since 2013), Altice USA, Charter Spectrum, Cox, Liberty Global and T-Mobile, among others, have embraced Netflix.

“We are partnering with a growing number of pay-TV providers across the world to the benefit of our mutual customers,” Netflix said in its Q4 shareholder letter. “These partnerships make it easier for consumers to sign up, enjoy, and pay for Netflix, while our service allows our partners to deepen their relationships with these subscribers.”

Amber Pine, commercial director at Sky, says the satellite TV operator with about 9 million U.K. subscribers has a lot of mutual customers.

“The depth of this integration provides them with a unique experience where they can have the best of both worlds,” Pine said in a statement.

Indeed, British regulator Ofcom recently reported that over-the-top video across the pond has now topped pay-TV in the number of subscribers: 15.4 million to 15.1 million.

“On a simplistic level, Sky and Netflix look like direct competitors,” Andrew McIntosh, the head of TV analysis at Enders Analysis, told Wired. “But they act on different levels, which Sky is well aware of. Sky doesn’t offer what Netflix offers. Now it is providing what it can’t offer, but still through the Sky package. And it makes Sky look good, because it is putting the customer first. It’s a very clever move.”

And interesting, considering both Comcast, Fox (and Disney) have competing acquisition bids on the table for Sky.

 

Epix Partners With Dish and Layer3 TV to Offer 4K Ultra HD Content

Pay TV network Epix has partnered with Dish and Layer3 TV, a T-Mobile company, to roll out its new 4K Ultra HD offering.

Epix subscribers on Dish and Layer3 TV will have access to a VOD package of 4K Ultra HD content directly on their set-top boxes. Additionally, all Epix subscribers from all affiliates can access 4K Ultra HD content through the authenticated Epix Apple TV app.

Dish and Layer3 TV subscribers now have access through multiple platforms to select Hollywood movies in 4K Ultra HD, including Arrival, The Magnificent Seven, Star Trek Beyond, Ben Hur and Transformers: The Last Knight and, coming later this year, films from the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day, GoldenEye, Licence To Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, and The Spy Who Loved Me.

“Epix is committed to embracing new technologies to provide subscribers with the best viewing experience of our premium original programming and movies,” said Monty Sarhan, EVP and GM of Epix, in a statement. “We are pleased to partner with Dish and Layer3 TV to deliver this advanced offering to a wider audience, and look forward to working with more distributors to include 4K Ultra HD as part of their entertainment packages.”

“While 4K televisions have become a staple in households throughout the U.S., 4K shows and movies are still a bit of a rarity,” said Vivek Khemka, Dish EVP and chief technology officer, in a statement. “That’s why we’re continuously working to bring more of this content into our customers’ homes, and are pleased to work with Epix so subscribers can access more TV in crystal-clear clarity, directly from their Hopper 3 and 4K Joey set-top boxes.”

“We’re hyper-focused on delivering the highest quality content to Layer3 TV customers,” said Jeffrey Binder, EVP home and entertainment, T-Mobile, in a statement. “It’s something our customers have come to expect, and we’re thrilled to be one of the first to partner with Epix to deliver their premium 4K content to Layer3 TV subscribers.”

DISH has carried Epix programming since 2010 and provides television entertainment and technology to millions of customers with its satellite Dish TV and streaming Sling TV services. Layer3 TV launched Epix in 2017.