T-Mobile execs eye pay-TV industry

T-Mobile CEO John Legere (center) and COO Mike Sievert (far right, seated). (T-Mobile)

Now that T-Mobile has spent two years disrupting the wireless industry, executives are thinking the pay-TV market may also be in need of a shake-up.

The nation’s third largest mobile network operator gained tremendous momentum—after CEO John Legere took the helm in 2012—by reshaping the industry. T-Mobile, through the “uncarrier” campaign, did away with two-year contracts and handset subsidies and launched features like zero-rated streaming music and video in moves that have forced rivals to follow suit.

Legere said T-Mobile may be able to build a pay-TV business using similar tactics.

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“Talk about a poster child for an industry that has really kind of ignored customers and ignored customer cares and gouged at every corner,” Legere said of the pay-TV market during T-Mobile’s earnings call Tuesday. “Clearly, I salivate when I think about the possibilities of changing some of those (video) industries. And frankly, I’m fascinated with how little AT&T has done since they spent the mother lode buying DirecTV, and pretty much have let it sit on the side, and still be an old, crappy linear TV that they bundle weakly with their unlimited offer, so maybe more to come.”

Legere’s comments come as speculation heats up that the wireless industry may see a flurry of mergers and acquisitions under a Trump administration expected to demonstrate a much lighter regulatory touch than the previous one. That activity could take the form of consolidation among wireless service providers—most notably a potential tie-up between T-Mobile and Sprint—but could also involve mobile carriers and media companies.

AT&T is hoping to gain approval of a merger with Time Warner, for instance, while Verizon continues to weigh a potential buyout of Yahoo.

T-Mobile may be looking to merge with a video distributor or forge a partnership with a TV provider looking to elbow its way into the wireless market. Rumors have long circulated of a tie-up between Dish Network and T-Mobile in a deal that could involve Dish’s significant spectrum assets.

“The data on this is really clear. The cable industry is statistically one of the most unloved industries in the history of the consumer economy. So, obviously, it’s ripe for innovation in this area,” T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said on the call. “I’ll tell you one thing, in 2017 we will reach the point where people have more screen time on mobile devices than on any other kind of screen, that’s really something incredible when it comes to watching their video. So we’ll see how this convergence unfolds, but in it we’re where the industry is going, not where it’s coming from, and we’ve got a brand that really resonates with people and possibly could resonate in an industry that’s even more maligned than we found ours four years ago when we got here.”

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