T-Mobile Expands Binge On with Amazon Video, Univision Now
Seemingly unfazed by harsh accusations that it is throttling video users, T-Mobile just announced new Binge On partnerships. The new deals more than double the number of video channels available since the service launched three months ago.
With Binge On, T-Mobile is tapping into the rising demand for mobile entertainment. Launched in November, the service initially allowed consumers to freely stream video from HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Sling TV, STARZ, WatchESPN and other cable providers to which they subscribed.
Now, Binge On is adding some impressive brands to the line up. Amazon Video, WWE Network, Fox News, Univision Now from Univision Communications are the latest additions. That brings Binge On’s total to 40 video streaming services.
Independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told us Binge On seems to be growing in a certain customer group and that's good for T-Mobile. He said he expects to see more growth going forward.
“T-Mobile's weak link is that they have limited spectrum compared to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Limiting the amount of data on this video service helps them to solve that limited spectrum problem,” Kagan said. “Bottom line, this is a good move for T-Mobile and its customers as long as they're honest and explaining that it's a lower quality video picture. I expect to see T-Mobile continuing to grow with Binge On.”
“Binge On is our most disruptive Un-carrier move yet,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile (pictured above), in a statement. He said the service has “literally changed the way millions of people are watching video." He also stressed that not only are customers watching more video that they did pre-Binge On, they are watching without worrying about larger bills or unexpected overages.
The streaming video from these services doesn't count against the customers' high-speed data usage and there are no hidden charges involved in what T-Mobile has dubbed “Un-carrier X,” according to the company.
T-Mobile offered some stats to back up Legere’s assertions. Binge On streaming customers are watching more than twice as many hours per day from free video services. One of T-Mobile’s partners, which the company did not name, saw a 79 percent jump in daily viewers on the wireless carrier’s network. All told, customers have streamed 34 petabytes for free since the service launched, the equivalent of over 109 million episodes of Game of Thrones at DVD quality.
T-Mobile also announced improvements to the service. Customers can now tap into short codes to manage Binge On settings. Dialing #BNG#, for example, and hitting send lets users check their settings. Dialing #BON# lets users turn the service on while #BOF# lets them turn it off. The company said fewer clicks are required to update the T-Mobile app.
Pressing Past Controversy
Indeed, T-Mobile is forging ahead with its service despite the controversy. Slate writer Marvin Ammori pointed out in December that T-Mobile is applying its optimization practice -- which essentially streams video at a bitrate equal to 480p and good enough for a small screen -- "to all video on its network for subscribers within all data plans."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) then conducted studies of Binge On. The EFF said that its findings confirmed that T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video streams to about 1.5 Mps when Binge On is enabled. This happens even when a phone is equipped to download at higher speeds and even when the video provider is not participating in Binge On, said Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist at EFF, in a statement.
The bottom line: T-Mobile is artificially slowing download speeds for customers who tap into Binge On, even if they're downloading videos to watch later or if they're downloading to other devices through tethered connections, according to the EFF.
A Call for Transparency
Kagan acknowledges that Binge On has been the focus of negative attention, but he called the criticism unfair. Binge On uses less bandwidth and that means it's a less crisp picture, he said.
“However on small screens like a smartphone that weakness may not be noticed,” Kagan said. “The question is how large does the screen have to be for customers to notice. Tablet size? Laptop size?” With all of that said, even customers do notice, they may be willing to pay that price to get access to video at no cost.
“The problem has been that T-Mobile should have spelled it out from the beginning,” Kagan said. “If they did they would have avoided all of this embarrassment and confusion.”
Read more on: T-Mobile
, Binge On
, John Legere
, Wireless Wars
, Tech News