Sprint to launch free Hulu service for unlimited users: Wave7

Hulu
Hulu offers a library of content with free or limited commercials. Image: Hulu

Sprint will take a page from T-Mobile’s playbook an offer a free streaming video subscription to some users, according to Wave7 Research.

“Sprint is planning to include TV shows from Hulu with its unlimited plans,” the market research firm wrote in a note so subscribers. “Dealers have been told that this is ‘coming soon.’ There will be one subscription per account and it will be described as a $7.99 value.”

T-Mobile in September began offering free Netflix subscriptions to users with two or more lines on its T-Mobile One plan; customers with older or promotional must upgrade to T-Mobile One to get the deal. T-Mobile is essentially reselling Netflix, so customers see a charge and a credit for $10 a month for their subscriptions.

Sprint representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment from FierceWireless on the upcoming offering.

The Netflix offering has been a key marketing message for T-Mobile, Wave7 noted. Hulu’s basic service sells for $5.99 a month for the first year, then bumps up to $7.99 a month.

Hulu is a joint venture between Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner with a basic service that includes TV series, movies, original content and other programming with limited or no commercials. The offering could be a key differentiator for Sprint, which has become less aggressive promotionally as competition in the overall U.S. wireless market has calmed. (Indeed, CEO Marcelo Claure said last week the operator is planning to up the price of its service plans next quarter.)

One looming question, though, is how well Sprint’s network might be able to handle a significant increase in usage of video, which can be extremely taxing on wireless networks. Claure conceded last week that Sprint’s strategy of using small cells to shore up network deficiencies hasn’t been 100% successful, and the carrier is looking to dramatically increase its network investment starting in several months.

When T-Mobile announced its free Netflix offering, CEO John Legere made a point of noting how well his carrier’s network had fared in recent speed tests, implying that it could handle increased video consumption. Sprint is clearly gambling that its network is up to the task as well.