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T-Mobile gives TVision Live subscribers free access to Vibe channels

The move, which is promoted as a holiday offering, comes after programmers complained that T-Mobile misled them during carriage negotiations.

The move, which is promoted as a holiday offering, comes after programmers complained that T-Mobile misled them during carriage negotiations.

(Image: Detusche Telekom/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

T-Mobile says it will give customers of its more-expensive streaming TV service access to 30 pay TV networks that are normally reserved for its cheaper offering.

As part of the wireless company’s Holideals campaign, T-Mobile says customers who subscribe to its $40 a month TVision Live streaming service will automatically get free access to its TVision Vibe service, which normally costs a separate $10 a month.

The move comes after pay TV executives at Discovery, ViacomCBS and Comcast’s NBC Universal complained that T-Mobile misled them about their intentions for the TVision streaming TV service during carriage negotiations and didn’t uphold their contractual agreements for the product that was eventually announced in late October.

Speaking with The Desk on background earlier this month, sources at Discovery said their counterparts at T-Mobile pitched them on a budget-friendly streaming service with a package of general entertainment and lifestyle channels. Discovery executives were initially hesitant because the service sounded similar to Philo, a $20-a-month service that offers around 60 of the same channels, but they ultimately agreed to sign a deal.

The executives were later surprised when T-Mobile unveiled what appeared to be two separate streaming packages for its TVision streaming TV service in late October — a cheap offering with general entertainment channels and a more-expensive tier with local broadcast, news and sports channels.

Since then, Discovery has been the biggest critic of TVision, with the company accusing T-Mobile of not following its contractual agreement, which Discovery executives say requires the wireless service to offer its networks across all of its basic TV packages including TVision Live.

Discovery has not been alone: Quietly, executives and other insiders at ViacomCBS and Comcast have expressed similar contempt for and concern over TVision, though on slightly different issues. (ViacomCBS is upset that TVision doesn’t carry legacy CBS broadcast and cable networks, while Comcast hoped TVision would include local NBC channels, according to sources.)

A source at T-Mobile defended the company’s actions, saying it views TVision Live and TVision Vibe to be separate streaming services with common ownership, similar to AT&T TV and DirecTV or Hulu and Disney Plus.

Last Saturday, a T-Mobile executive who spoke with The Deskon condition of anonymity pushed back against a Variety report that suggested the company would eventually be forced to eliminate TVision Vibe and move the channels into TVision Live, calling it “speculative.”

This week, T-Mobile apparently changed its tune.

“Current TVision Live customers, and anyone who signs up for a TVision Live service package, gets an additional 30-plus top-rated entertainment channels from TVision Vibe included,” the company said in a statement.

Unlike the rest of the company’s holiday deals, the inclusion of the TVision Vibe channels in TVision Live packages did not come with an expiration date, though its website for TVision said the offer was “for a limited time.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).