Cellular companies have been trying for years to make sure everyone on the planet has a smartphone and a cellular subscription plan with lots of minutes, free texting and enough data to choke a horse. (Assuming horses ate cellular data.)
Now that they’ve almost succeeded, what’s next? Answer: Streaming cellular video.
Following its purchase of DirecTV, AT&T may have made the largest buy-in with streaming cellular video of anyone. To that end, the company plans to launch Internet streaming TV through 3 avenues – all accessible on smartphones.
DirecTV Now will feature on-demand and live programming as well as sports packages, HBO and others. DirecTV Mobile will forgo live programming but will still have a plethora of shows. DirecTV Preview will be ad-supported and offer the lowest level of programming.
AT&T has not yet said what each of the 3 platforms will cost or even how pricing will work. All 3 services are expected to be available sometime in Q4 2016.
Not to be outdone by rival AT&T, Verizon has announced that it has “entered into an agreement to purchase an approximate 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV.”
AwesomenessTV will bring short-form mobile video to Verizon’s go90 offering, a mobile over-the-top (OTT) service that allows Verizon customers to stream TV shows, live sports and concerts without using up data.
For $10.99 per month, Sprint customers can access movies, TV shows, music and much more including a subscription to Amazon Prime.
The monthly subscription avoids having to pay for Prime upfront, but costs almost $33 per year more than signing up for Prime directly through Amazon. In addition, data isn’t included.
Nothing subtle about T-Mobile’s approach to cellular video streaming. It is called BingeOn and allows T-Mobile users to watch YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, HBO Now, Sling TV and many, many more services data-fee-free.
Of course, you have to subscribe to services that charge a fee such as HBO Go, Showtime or Starz. If you already have a subscription through cable or satellite, in most cases access on T-Mobile is free of extra charges.
Who Will Win?
With 81% of U.S. smartphone users now streaming video every month, clearly whichever company provides the best services at the fairest price is going to gain customers. Although the majority of streaming is done over Wi-Fi networks, there has been an uptick in the amount being done using cellular data.
With users 25 and younger consuming 6.2GB of data for video streaming versus 4.9GB by older users, programming that appeals to the younger set is expected to be in high demand.
At this point, nobody knows who will come out on top, clearly making cellular video streaming a “watching this space” kind of deal.