Could the guy who shook up the US mobile phone industry do the same to the TV industry?
If Dish and T-Mobile merge, which is an option the two companies are currently discussing according to a report in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, the brash, trash-talking, party-crashing, Donald Trump-insulting, neck-tie eschewing CEO who has brought T-Mobile back from the dead would reportedly be at the helm of new company.
And if he leads the company the same way he’s led T-Mobile, which in the past few years has made changes that have forced much larger stalwarts like Verizon and AT&T also to change their ways, then there’s a possibility he’d bring the same disruptive attitude to the staid TV industry.
Over the last several years, T-Mobile has made a series of aggressive moves to attract subscribers. It killed the two-year contract, introduced cheaper phone plans, allows customers to rollover unused data to the next month, and offers free international data and text roaming in more than 120 countries.
The company even pays for people who subscribe to other carriers to get out of their contracts.
The moves from T-Mobile, which has taken to branding itself as “The Un-Carrier,” have reverberated throughout the industry and prompted AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to adopt some of the changes. It’s also helped T-Mobile pull subscribers from its competitors.
Legere “could well bring that same type of disruption to pay TV,” Jan Dawson, an independent analyst at Jackdaw Research, told Business Insider, “which could mean that you get more options, lower prices, and no contracts.”
Legere has said in interviews that T-Mobile’s strategy is to eradicate “pain points” for wireless subscribers, and there are perhaps more pain points for TV customers than there are for customers of any other industry. A recent survey from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index found that satisfaction with cable companies and internet providers is at a seven-year low, and consumers are less satisfied with the industry than they are of the mobile phone, airline, and health care industries.
“With John Legere’s mentality as CEO of T-Mobile, he might be more open to saying ‘let’s disrupt this thing to give consumers what they want,'” Dawson said.
If the merger were to go through — neither company immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider, and it would still have to be approved by regulators — it’s likely that the new company could sell bundled TV and wireless subscriptions. But one important element that a combined T-Mobile and Dish would be lacking, says Dawson, is a way to provide broadband internet to consumers. Wireless broadband is years away from being a real alternative to fixed connections like cable or fibre, so customers of the new company would have to get internet from a provider like Comcast or Charter.
Dish, which is the third-largest pay TV provider in the country terms of customers, is also one of the more innovative players in the industry, at least when it comes to what the company offers. Dish launched Sling TV, a smaller bundle of live TV delivered online, earlier this year. Though it’s not a true cable replacement for most people — it only has a few sports channels, no DVR, and the on-demand offerings are few and far between — it represents a huge shift in how people watch live TV: it’s delivered online, doesn’t require a contract, any equipment, or installation.
The ultimate dream for most TV subscribers is to pay a la carte, only for the channels you want to watch. That’s likely years away, if it’s ever going to happen. But Legere is the type of guy who seems willing to make radical moves to attract customers, and that’s exactly what the TV industry needs.
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