Exit of veteran media exec Lindsay Gardner, coupled with aggressive promotions for third-party SVOD services, lead to questions regarding the long-delayed national rollout of fixed 5G pay TV service
What’s going on with TVision Home, the $90-a-month pay TV service that T-Mobile ostensibly plans to widely deploy along with its 5G rollout?
That question has renewed urgency amid the reported departure of yet another top video executive from the wireless company.
Light Reading first reported that veteran media executive Lindsay Gardner, chief content officer for T-Mobile, is set to leave the company later this month. Gardner confirmed his exit to Next TV.
A T-Mobile rep also told Next TV that the wireless operator doesn’t comment on departures “outside of our executive leadership team, out of respect for people’s privacy.”
Perhaps the fact that the former Fox Networks and Miramax executive, who is considered T-Mobile’s top video content leader, isn’t considered part of the company’s executive leadership group tells us all we need to know about why he’s leaving?
Gardner joined T-Mobile as part of the so-called Uncarrier’s $325 million purchase of Denver-based pay TV start-up Layer3 TV in early 2018. According to the Light Reading report, he might “re-engage” with Layer3 TV’s original backers, TPG Growth, the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Paulson & Co.
The Denver-based Gardner’s departure comes 14 months after Layer3 TV founder and CEO Jeff Binder, who previously served as Layer3 TV’s top video exec, also left the company. (The Harvard graduate now lists himself as CEO of Denver-based “Harvard Venture Partners.”)
Founded in 2013 and launching in Chicago in 2016, Layer3 TV billed itself as a kind of premium cable TV service, targeting customers who didn’t mind large pay TV bills, but who wanted a better technological and service experience. Layer3 TV had expanded to a handful of U.S. cities—New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.—, when T-Mobile acquired the company.
Under Binder, T-Mobile rebranded Layer3 TV as TVision, offering a $90-a-month base tier of 154 channels, 1 terabyte of DVR storage (about 400 hours of recordings), integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and access to streaming services and social media.
To date, however, TVision hasn’t expanded much—if any—beyond its limited Layer3 TV reach.
In its product marketing, and in its SEC filings, T-Mobile describes TVision as the pay TV service that it will roll out alongside fixed wireless 5G services.
“TVision Home is being purpose-built for the 5G future,” T-Mobile says, when you click on the 5G Vision link situated on the main menu tab of the TVision landing page. “We’re getting ready for a world where 5G replaces home broadband and TVision Home will replace your cable TV – and launching a complete, high-end home TV service is a key part of that strategy.”
Meanwhile, following April closure of its $26 billion Sprint acquisition, T-Mobile last month , indicating that its “significantly enhanced spectrum position” will enable it to accelerate plans for its 5G fixed-wireless play.
“The enhanced in-home broadband opportunity, along with the acquisition of certain content rights has created a strategic shift in our TVision Home service offering to developing a video product which will be complementary to the in-home broadband offering and which we believe is necessary to enable higher penetration into the in-home broadband market,” T-Mobile said in the filing.
So, beyond chewing through the Sprint integration, which is still in its early stages, what’s the holdup with TVision’s national rollout?
T-Mobile has been aggressive in marketing third-party SVOD services, underwriting a base Netflix subscription for its unlimited data wireless subscribers since 2017. It kicked off a similarly branded “Quibi on Us” promotion involving the struggling $4.99-a-month mobile-first video streaming platform in April. And it’s inheriting Sprint’s promotion that delivers free base Hulu service to unlimited data subscribers.
Light Reading also reported earlier this year that T-Mobile was re-engineering TVision’s technology platform, enlisting pay TV technology vendor MobiTV. The blog said in May that the process was done.
Notably, in its June 8-K filing, T-Mobile seems to indicate that welding TVision to the developing fixed wireless play may be the cause of the delay.
“As a result of the change in the stand-alone product offering plans and timing, we are completing an interim goodwill impairment analysis for the stand-alone Layer3 reporting unit,” the wireless company said. “We anticipate the analysis will result in a non-cash impairment in the Layer3 reporting unit goodwill of $218 million (the “Layer3 Goodwill Impairment”) for the quarter ended June 30, 2020. Any impairment would impact Net Income but would be excluded from Adjusted EBITDA.”