T-Mobile US (TMUS) - Get Report unveiled a highly competitive data plan Tuesday that lets consumers stream 24 different video services without tapping into their data in a deal that analysts say helps prime the carrier for a takeover.
T-Mobile's new plan, called Binge On, is offering services like Netflix, HBO Now, Sling TV and even its competitor Verizon's (VZ) - Get Report Verizon Go90 to stream for free, with no impact on usage caps. The bargain, which starts Nov. 15, also includes Hulu, Fox Sports and ESPN, although it does not include YouTube presently.
The company said it would allow users to stream the video at lower resolutions, 480p, so as not to put too much strain on its network.
The Bellevue, Wash.-based company, a subsidiary of German-based T-Mobile International, is not taking payments from its partners nor is it paying them, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at Tuesday's official announcement event, saying the move was to "optimize" mobile video for its customers.
Shares of T-Mobile, which closed down about 4% in Tuesday's session, were up about 1.3% at $37.48 early in Wednesday's session.
Wall Street analysts remained positive on T-Mobile, with many analysts reiterating bullish ratings on the stock. Here's what they had to say:
Pacific Crest analyst Michael Bowen (Overweight, $47 PT)
"T-Mobile unveiled its Uncarrier X announcement ... and did not disappoint, offering to double data for Simple Choice customers and allow Binge On customers to stream video from 24 different providers without burning through their data plans. This includes Netflix, Sling TV, HBO and brazenly even Verizon Go90. We view the program as a positive move by T-Mobile, particularly as the holiday selling season is upon us. We reiterate our Overweight rating on TMUS and our $47 price target."
"T-Mobile has essentially forced other carriers to follow its lead with these new plans. This is important given that wireless voice average revenue per user (ARPU) has been in decline for some time, but the prospect of increasing data usage has been critical, we believe, to future incremental profitability gains for AT&T and Verizon, and this type of plan threatens to upset that scenario. The net is we believe that this move will likely improve the already improving porting trends at T-Mobile, and we reiterate our Overweight rating on shares of TMUS and our $47 price target."
Jefferies analyst Mike McCormack (Buy, $37.03 PT)
"Doubling data is positioned as value enhancing and targeting shared data plans/overages, but embedded in the Un-Carrier X move are price increases which should improve ARPU, and limit downsizing. Free video streaming is compelling and differentiated, though requires lower resolution to avoid congestion, with TMUS likely betting consumers will not know, or care. While other carriers may tweak data buckets, we do not anticipate much competitive reaction. Doubling of Simple Choice Data, But Price Increases as Well. T-Mobile is doubling data buckets for Simple Choice customers, though pricing is also refreshed higher for each plan above 1Gb. Thus, what used to be $50/$60/$70 for 1/3/5Gb is now $50/$65/$80 for 2/6/10Gb, offering more value, albeit at a higher price. Notably, unlimited plans are increased $15, to $95, as T-Mobile continues to move away from such offerings given the network impact. The new plans more closely align T-Mobile pricing with AT&T at the low end while enhancing the carrier's value proposition at the high end. The 10Gb for all promotion is being replaced with a new 4-line, 6Gb/line offer at the same price, or $120."
Oppenheimer analyst Timothy Horan (Outperform, $48 PT)
"TMUS introduced two major offerings at its Uncarrier 10 event, both of which should drive ARPU, subscriber and FCF growth. The first announcement was to double data for all customers free of charge, so the base GB/line now goes from (1,3,5) to (2,6,10). The second major announcement was the introduction of "Binge On Demand," which will offer 24 major video content brands (including Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and ESPN with more to come) for which viewing does not count towards data usage. TMUS will initially not be collecting payments from these brands, to avoid net neutrality concerns. With regard to its network, management noted that they have partnered with these brands to deliver video at lower quality (480p) which should reduce overall traffic on the network by 10%. TMUS will provide the more efficient video streaming option as a toggle for all of its customers on 6GB or higher plans. It remains to be seen how the TMUS network will be able to handle the video and higher data buckets, but it can alter promotions to manage this. The new offerings are designed to increase ARPU and subscriber growth which should drive FCF growth. We will be updating our model in the next few days. We discuss the industry implications below, but in our view this makes TMUS more of an attractive takeover target and is positive for infrastructure providers and negative for Sprint."
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.