T-Mobile—which dubs itself the “uncarrier”—takes pride in upending the staid ways of the traditional wireless industry. Two years ago, it stopped counting most video streams against its data plans. Later, it led the shift to bring back unlimited data plans, which had been replaced in previous years with tiered packages as providers struggled to cope with skyrocketing data usage. Then it offered customers a literal stake in the company as part of an extreme loyalty play.
Its next plot to snag market share from larger US rivals Verizon and AT&T could be just as game changing: Free Netflix.
T-Mobile announced today a deal to offer customers free access to the streaming-video service. T-Mobile will cover the cost for a standard Netflix membership, which costs $9.99 in the US and allows streaming on up to two devices at a time, for eligible T-Mobile customers. Customers can activate their new Netflix subscriptions online, in-store, or by calling T-Mobile customer service, starting Sept. 12. And T-Mobile will pay for the cost of a standard Netflix plan—about $120 a year—for those who already have accounts. All customers have to do is contact T-Mobile via the same channels to link their Netflix accounts to T-Mobile, and have the monthly subscription fee paid directly to Netflix by T-Mobile.
There is a catch (as always): The perk is only offered to subscribers of the unlimited T-Mobile One plan with two or more active voice lines, which T-Mobile currently sells for $120 a month with taxes and fees included. And it’s limited to one Netflix subscription per family account. The T-Mobile account also has to be in good standing to be eligible.
T-Mobile says the move strikes at the heart of the much-loathed carrier bundles offered by competitors that bundle wireless services with other offerings like TV and internet. Instead of forcing customers to pay for things they don’t want to get what appears to be a better deal, T-Mobile says it will give customers something they do want—for free.
AT&T also offers subscribers to its unlimited wireless plan free access to HBO. But that’s a little different, because AT&T is in the midst of a merger with HBO’s parent company Time Warner, and isn’t paying for those subscriptions out-of-pocket. It also offers those same customers discounts on its DirecTV Now internet-TV service.