By Drew FitzGerald 

T-Mobile US Inc. is launching a new home television service aimed at the millions of U.S. households that have cut the cable cord in recent years, jumping into the already crowded streaming video market.

The country's No. 2 cellphone carrier said Tuesday that its long-planned TV service will start next week with three tiers: TVision Vibe, a bundle with nonsports channels like BET and Comedy Central for a $10 monthly fee; TVision Live, a midrange package with local broadcast channels, sports channels like ESPN and news brands such as CNN for $40 to $60 a month; and TVision Channels, which adds on premium cable options like Showtime and Starz.

The company plans to make its TV service available in stages. T-Mobile customers can access the service starting Sunday, followed by its legacy Sprint customers later in November. The wireless operator plans to eventually provide the service to customers of other cellphone carriers.

T-Mobile unveiled a $50 Hub device with remote controls to carry the service through a plug-in dongle. The app is also available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google TV devices. T-Mobile offered a year of free Apple TV+, the iPhone maker's own on-demand video service, to customers who sign up this year.

The wireless company's TV service is entering a market plagued by customer losses and dwindling profitability. Many cable customers have dropped TV subscriptions from their bills, opting instead to buy broadband internet service as a stand-alone item and sign up for a panoply of video services such as Netflix and Disney+.

So-called virtual pay-TV services delivered entirely online haven't fared much better. AT&T Inc.'s DirecTV Now service, which delivers channels over the internet without a satellite, has shrunk since peaking at two million subscribers in 2018. PlayStation Vue, a TV service from Sony Corp., shut down last year.

Wireless internet services are still a small sliver of the more than 100 million U.S. households that subscribe to home broadband by wire. On Tuesday, T-Mobile offered few details about its fifth-generation home broadband service. Executives have promised to use the trove of airwave licenses acquired earlier this year through T-Mobile's takeover of rival Sprint Corp. to offer 5G internet service over the air, but the company's network overhaul is still a work in progress.

TVision is T-Mobile's second attempt at navigating a struggling pay-TV industry after its 2018 purchase of Layer3 TV for $325 million. The company has spent the past two year piecing together the rights to carry enough traditional live TV channels to compete with its bigger cable-TV rivals.

T-Mobile wrote down most of Layer3's value this year, citing a new strategy based partly on recently acquired content rights. Layer3 delivered live TV channels to a small group of customers, but its high cost and cablelike delivery system stunted its growth.

Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 14:14 ET (18:14 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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