T-Mobile is taking on the cable TV industry with ‘TVision.’
T-Mobile is expanding options in the cord-cutting playbook.
The wireless company’s new streaming service TVision, available now for T-Mobile postpaid customers, lets you choose your own slate of programming – starting at $10 monthly for a collection of 30 networks including AMC, with live news and sports starting at $40 monthly, and the ability to add premium channels if you want.
Later this month, T-Mobile customers who began as Sprint subscribers can subscribe (remember T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint was approved this year). Next year, T-Mobile prepaid and non-T-Mobile customers will gain access.
There’s a lot to like about TVision. T-Mobile touts the lack of a contract or set-top box needed to get programming. But that’s something already offered by competitors such as Hulu + Live TV ($54.99, 60+ channels), YouTube TV ($64.99 monthly, 85+ channels) and fuboTV (starts at $65 for 115 channels), and Hulu + Live TV ($54.99, 60+ channels).
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However, TVision offers more flexibility in what you pay for. The $40 basic Live TV package has 30+ channels including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Disney, ESPN, FS1, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox Business Network, TBS, TNT – and in some markets local ABC, Fox and NBC channels (no CBS channels).
Sports fans may want to opt for the Live TV+ ($50 monthly) package, which includes everything in the basic lineup, plus The NFL Network, Big Ten Network, NBCSN, Golf Channel and regional sports networks. Even more sports comes in the Live Zone ($60 monthly) package which adds to the mix NFL Red Zone and eight more channels including the Longhorn Network.
TVision Live also gives you a cloud DVR to store 100 hours of recordings and access to more than 10,000 on-demand programs.
Don’t need live TV or sports? There’s TVision Vibe ($10 monthly) with AMC, BET, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, TLC and more (30+ channels total).
Want to add premium networks? TVision Channels lets you subscribe to EPIX ($5.99), Showtime ($10.99) or Starz ($8.99) and have these, along with your TVision packages, wrapped into your T-Mobile bill online or in the app.
TVision also lets you choose how to watch. You can download the app on Android and iOS on smartphones and tablets and on streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV.
Content can be found in many different ways. Using a provided iPad with the app already installed – and connected to my home Wi-Fi – TVision’s Home screen scrolled through several featured programs including Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” the Paramount Channel series “Yellowstone” and the “Get Shorty” series on EPIX. With a tap came the option to play the most recent episode and record upcoming ones.
The Home screen also showed what services you have – including TVision Live, TVision Vibe and Showtime – and programs currently being broadcast. But if you prefer to use a grid, hit the Guide button at the bottom of the screen.
Tap on the Shows or Movie prompt and see a library of TV series such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Shark Tank” and movies including “Legally Blonde,” “Tomb Raider” and “Days of Thunder.”
Watching football, soccer and other content on the iPad was easy and looked great.
To watch on a big screen, I connected a TVision Hub ($50) streaming device, which resembles a Google Chromecast and connects to a TV’s HDMI input. Once connected to Wi-Fi and activated, TVision prompted me to sign into my Google account and pair the remote.
The remote has a lot of handy features including buttons to take you straight to the Guide, the TVision home screen’s more app-centric display or the DVR. There’s also buttons to launch Netflix or YouTube. Tap the remote’s Google Assistant button and you can say, “Tune to AMC” and launch that or any other channel – a decent trade for one of my favorite features on most remotes, the back or previous button.
Watching on a big screen, the video looks crisp. Viewing a college football game, TVision video was not quite as smooth as the same broadcast on DirecTV. But most viewers would be unlikely to notice.
If you rely on a Roku streaming device, you will need a Hub since Roku won’t have the TVision app at launch.
What else is missing?
TVision doesn’t have some channels, but T-Mobile doesn’t consider that a weakness. If customers want their local CBS channel, they can subscribe to CBS All Access ($5.99 monthly, or $9.99 monthly with fewer commercials). Want HBO? Subscribe to HBO Max ($14.99 monthly).
Those services, and others such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, can be added to the Hub’s home screen alongside TVision. An Android Home button makes it easy to get there.
TVision is “a cord cutting package that starts at $10,” Matt Staneff, T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer, told USA TODAY. “You can customize your content based on what you want to buy and see.”
But remember – as with cord cutting, in general – the more you add, the bigger your cumulative streaming bill. If you augment the basic TVision Live TV package with the Vibe channels, and then add Netflix, Disney+, and CBS All Access, your monthly bill could be $77. Opt for all the TVision channels and those other services and your monthly bill is nearly $100.
That’s still below what T-Mobile estimates the typical monthly pay-TV bill to be: more than $150 per month over the life of a contract. Leichtman Research estimates the average monthly pay-TV bill is about $109.
If you are someone aiming to reduce their TV bill, T-Mobile has given you another option to consider.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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