T-Mobile’s Dwayne Benefield on Trying to Disrupt the Disruptors in Streaming TV

If you haven’t heard the news by now, T-Mobile’s jumping into the live TV streaming market with a service of its own: TVision. The company says it’s aiming to disrupt a space that’s already seen a heavy dose of disruption over the years, as various live TV streaming services aim to replace traditional cable. We had a chance to chat with Dwayne Benefield, T-Mobile vice president of entertainment, to see what the company can offer in a competitive field.

While T-Mobile itself might be new to the live TV streaming business, Benefield has clearly seen a few things — he used to run Sony’s live streaming service PlayStation Vue. And the T-Mo exec had plenty to say about the current state of streaming services. As for why, in late 2020 and in the middle of a pandemic, T-Mobile chose now to announce TVision and launch the first stages of availability, Benefield pointed to the increased interest in streaming at home, especially with live sports returning.

“Now was really the time to lean in,” he said.

T-Mobile’s Dwayne Benefield during the company’s TVision livestream.
Image capture: T-Mobile

The company has dipped its toes in TV thanks to its Layer3 acquisition. T-Mobile later revamped and rebranded that effort into TVision Home, which it launched in a handful of markets last year. Benefield said they’ve been looking to build off of that effort.

“We’ve learned a lot from TVision Home,” he said, adding that the next step was to attempt “something bigger, something national, something that can scale quickly.”

As for what T-Mobile thinks it can offer versus traditional cable companies and some of the older players in the live TV streaming industry, the company’s messaging has centered on price advantages and focused channel lineups. Benefield pointed to the legacy “big, fat bundles” that pile on channels customers might not necessarily want and the constant price hikes, a pattern he’s seen in both cable companies and live TV streaming providers.

“We basically took the bundle and broke it up,” he said.

You can check out our earlier post for more details about what T-Mobile’s looking to offer initially, but time will tell if the new service will also suffer from lineup shifts and price hikes in the future. To that end, Benefield said the company is leaning on its overall strategy and managing TVision better than competitors to avoid becoming another bloated service over time.

“If you look at our value (proposition), I think it’s more compelling than anything else out there,” he said.

He also pointed to the 7,000-plus T-Mobile retails stores around the country as a competitive advantage, adding that they’ll have trained staff ready to work in-person with those looking to cut the cord.

TVision’s platform support includes a lot of the big names, with the notable exception of Roku. Benfield said the company wanted to get strong mobile support right from the start, hence the availability of an Android and iOS app at launch. As for in-home streaming, the company feels confident about its support on Android TV, Fire TV, Google TV, and Apple TV (along with its own TVision HUB streaming device). That said, Benefield said they’ll continue to evaluate Roku in the future, so we’ll certainly keep an eye on that and update you if and when we hear anything.

TVision’s current platform support includes some key players, but Roku is notably absent at the moment.
Image capture: T-Mobile

The same goes for the upcoming Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5. The new, high-powered gaming consoles will likely be very capable streaming devices in their own right, and the former Sony exec said they’ll keep an eye on them moving forward.

“We’ll evaluate those and see if they can add to the momentum,” he said.

TVision starts rolling out in November, starting with T-Mobile postpaid customers, followed by a nationwide launch for legacy Sprint customers later in November. The company hasn’t shared exactly when the service will become available nationwide for everyone, but it has offered up a link where you can sign up for updates. Benefield said the staggered launch serves a number of purposes. For one, limiting rollout to start gives them the best shot at providing good customer service from the outset, which they can scale over time. Beyond that, though, Benefield said making TVision available to current T-Mobile subscribers first is a way to reward its customer base for their loyalty.

And as for where he hopes to see TVision in the future, Benefield pointed to predictions that virtual MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) will continue to grow and reach millions more homes in the future, especially as the pandemic has driven more and more of us to in-home streaming.

“Success (for TVision) means that we have a good slice of that pie,” he said.