Netflix, Hulu and more won’t count against data on T-Mobile anymore

T-Mobile CEO John Legere holds a doll of himself during a media event in 2014.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere holds a doll of himself during a media event in 2014.

(Peter DaSilva / for the Los Angeles Times)

Binge on.

That’s the new rallying cry from cellphone service provider T-Mobile, which announced Tuesday in Los Angeles that watching video on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, WatchESPN and about 20 other apps no longer would count against mobile data usage.

The move is meant to satisfy growing demand for mobile video while stemming the rise in penalties for going over data caps. It’s an attractive proposition for consumers, and T-Mobile said it can pull the offer off without overwhelming its network and undermining profits because it’s working with media companies to optimize their apps. T-Mobile’s competitors don’t have anything similar.

“Customers have a huge and increasing appetite for new and innovative ways to use their smartphones,” T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said. “But what I see is there’s amazing content being created, but it’s being created for movie and TV screens. All content is going to the Internet, and I’m trying to get it mobile. It’s a huge disconnect. A big, big portion of data is wasted.”


T-Mobile’s new system pushes for video streams, which will come in 480p resolution, to be three times more efficient in data usage. The new offering, Binge On, starts over the next two weeks on new and existing plans. It’s free if you buy any data plan.

Legere introduced Binge On at the Shrine Auditorium near USC, partially filled with a few reporters, executives from the big video companies and hundreds of employees wearing T-Mobile garb and lit-up purple necklaces.

Other video on the initial list that won’t count against data include Showtime, Vevo, Univision, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and Vessel. Some of the biggest apps missing are YouTube, Snapchat and Twitch. Legere said the company is in talks with YouTube, but the Google-owned video giant hadn’t quickly agreed to technical terms. Video apps do not have to pay to be part of the program.

Legere’s incentive-laden speech included several barbs at rival carriers Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T. Among his jabs: Video streaming from Verizon’s new Go90 app and AT&T’s DirecTV app will be covered by Binge On. “Just because we can,” Legere said.

T-Mobile already allows unlimited music streaming through Spotify, Apple Music and several other major apps, covering about 95% of the industry and 200 million songs a day, T-Mobile said.

On Tuesday, the company also doubled data caps on its plans to 2 gigabytes, 6 gigabytes and 10 gigabytes, without changing prices. The limit on tethering, or using a smartphone as a hotspot, was doubled to 14 gigabytes. Four lines with unlimited calling, texting and data usage costs $180 a month on T-Mobile.

The announcements comprised the 10th major series of moves T-Mobile has made over the past two years to restructure the mobile service business. It eliminated two-year service contracts and the device subsidies that came with them, began allowing more frequent upgrades on phones, started handing out free, high-end Wi-Fi routers and opened plans to cover all of North America.

Legere acknowledged investors have raised concerns about T-Mobile handing “stuff out for free.” But he counters that it’s causing consumers to switch to T-Mobile. Indeed, other carriers have copied some of T-Mobile’s changes, and the company has captured more customers than it has lost to other carriers for 10 straight quarters, Legere said.

“This makes huge economic sense,” Legere said onstage. “Both investors and customers are going to be real happy. This could be the biggest thing we’ve announced.”

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