Netflix: We're cool with Binge On, jury is out on FreeBee

T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) has caught some flak lately for its Binge On service, but Netflix has no problem with the zero-rated data offering. Netflix has yet to weigh in on Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) new FreeBee program, however.


Netflix is a content partner for Binge On, which enables T-Mobile customers to access streaming video from specific partners without incurring data charges. The service has been criticized for running afoul of net neutrality principles, and T-Mobile has recently garnered unwanted headlines for throttling speeds of all video transmissions -- not just those of Binge On partners -- when users have the service turned on.

Netflix CFO David Wells said during an earnings call that while he couldn't voice an opinion on Verizon's FreeBee, the company is fine with Binge On.

"You know, I don't know enough of the details of FreeBee," Wells said, according to a transcript of the company's earning event provided by Seeking Alpha. "But generally the great thing about what T-Mobile was doing is making limited video consumption a possibility with freedom from (incurring overages) about the data caps." Binge On's "quality is actually very, very good" on a handset despite T-Mobile's throttling and downgrading the content, Wells added. "And I think T-Mobile was seeing somewhat positive benefits from that, so we help those kind of programs expand."

And Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted that T-Mobile users can turn Binge On off, echoing a defense the carrier has made repeatedly.

"Well, it's voluntary on the customer -- any customer of T-Mobile's can decide to turn it on or turn it off, that would be a big difference…. It's an open program," Hastings said. "Many of our competitors such as Hulu and HBO are in the program also, but it's an open, no-charge program where they are really focused on trying to get the customers some optionality."

Netflix's support of Binge On is noteworthy because the company was involved in a net neutrality dispute with Comcast in 2014.

T-Mobile has continued to add content providers to Binge On, although at least one smaller partner --  4Stream.TV -- recently quit the service in protest of T-Mobile's net neutrality position.

Separately, Verizon launched FreeBee Data this week with partners including Hearst Magazines, AOL and Gameday. Verizon owns AOL, leading some critics to speculate that the carrier could include content from AOL properties such as Engadget, The Huffington Post and TechCrunch in its FreeBee offering.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

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