Opinion: Netflix Deal Is A Better Deal For T-Mobile Than For You

September 12, 2017 - Written By John Anon

This week saw Netflix launch its latest ‘uncarrier’ move by essentially making Netflix free to its users. On the face of it, this is a great deal. However, that is the power of good marketing and something T-Mobile has become highly competent in of late. For example, T-Mobile loves to put-down AT&T and Verizon at every opportunity as well as highlighting how they overcharge customers, bundle services that customers don’t need, and so on. In fact, these arguments were literally the arguments put forward during UnCarrier NEXT when T-Mobile – through Legere – announced that the “Netflix On Us” promotion was designed to combat this very issue. With Legere noting that the likes of AT&T and Verizon bundle services to create “bigger, fatter, pricier, exploding bundles.” In contrast, T-Mobile’s Netflix On Us is designed to give you what you want, without having to pay more. Again, according to Legere “give you something you do want, with something else you want, and keep the price the same.”

Only, things are not that straightforward. Which is a common issue with T-Mobile. While the carrier shouts as loud as it can on what it is doing for you (and the caveats, downsides, and catches of the other carriers), it very quietly skipped passed its own caveats, downsides, and catches. As when it comes to Netflix On Us, the reality is that this is a service designed for T-Mobile and not for you. Let’s start with the basic caveat – which also happens to be the most hypocritical. Rule number one “You’ll need to have two or more lines on your account with an eligible T-Mobile ONE voice plan with taxes & fees included.” The reason this is clearly designed for T-Mobile and not you is that it forces users to add lines to gain the service in the first place. Keep in mind, adding a line which costs significantly more than the Netflix subscription they are offering. Which goes against the “give you something you do want, with something else you want, and keep the price the same” sentiment. The reason this is hypocritical actually ties into another ‘uncarrier move’- T-Mobile One.

T-Mobile launched its One service as a means to offering consumers one price for an all-included plan. Which is a nice move. However, the price gets better the more lines you add. So if for example, you are flying solo then T-Mobile One will set you back $70 per moth. While that price is all-in, it is not that competitive in the grand scheme of things. Certainly not groundbreaking or a must-have deal. Run two lines and each person then pays $60 for their respective service. For three people, each person pays only $47 and for four lines, each person is liable for just $40. Which is where the real savings can be had. As at $40 a line, you are getting a deal – although in return T-Mobile is getting four customers it can shout about during its next quarterly report. Where the hypocrisy comes in is that those who are paying the most for a line (single users at $70) are NOT eligible for the free Netflix. So arguably, T-Mobile’s per-line highest revenue generating customers are not provided with the same benefits of those paying less per-line. In spite of T-Mobile’s use of language, you do need to ‘bundle’ – albeit bundle an extra line to be offered the T-Mobile Netflix On Us deal.

Fair enough, solo fliers who pay the most individually are excluded from the deal. Still, all those who have two or more lines are all good. Which some could argue makes sense as two (or more) people (in spite of paying less individually) pay more collectively. So they deserve the “free” Netflix add-on. Right? Wrong! As even if you have two lines on your account, that does not automatically mean you are eligible. In fact, whether or not you are eligible comes down to how much you pay for those two lines. As two lines in itself, is not enough. For example, one of the best deals T-Mobile recently launched was its two lines for $100. This deal meant that instead of paying $70 per line a family of two could combine their services and pay a straight $100 for both services, inclusive of taxes and fees. Again, a nice deal, as long as you add another line.

However, those $100 customers who are effectively on a “2 or more” family account with T-Mobile One are also not eligible for Netflix On Us. As presumably, they are paying too little for it to be worthwhile for T-Mobile to offer it in the first place. So while keeping “give you something you do want, with something else you want, and keep the price the same” in mind, here is where the 2-line situation becomes almost comical. If you are on a two line deal for $100, then the only way you can take advantage of Netflix On Us is to change your plan. To be more clear, not change your plan per se – as you still will be on the same two line T-Mobile One plan – but change the price you pay for that plan. If fact, if you are on the $100 plan then you can simply head over to the T-Mobile website now, log in, head to the “Plan” section, click on the “Change Plan” tab (or the big Netflix On Us ad) and see what T-Mobile is offering. For those unable to do this, here’s the breakdown. Changing your $100 two line plan to the same plan version which includes Netflix On Us will see the price of the plan rising to $120 per month – providing you have autopay switched on ($130 otherwise). So in short, you need to actually pay $20 more per month to be afforded the option to gain a $9.99 per month subscription. Again – “give you something you do want, with something else you want, and keep the price the same.”

Need another example? How about T-Mobile’s “Unlimited 55+” plan. This was another ‘disruptor’ move brought in by T-Mobile to reward the “generation of rule breakers.“ In short, this plan allows those over the age of 55 the ability to secure two lines of unlimited talk, text and LTE data (T-Mobile One) for just $60 per month. A price that is less than the cost one user will pay on the standard T-Mobile One plan for their service. This again, is a nice perk for older customers although again, it is a plan which is not eligible for Netflix On Us. Instead, those customers (like the 2 lines for $100 customers) will need to switch “to the latest T-Mobile ONE plan.” While that might seem like an ordinary and typical requirement to avoid customers that are grandfathered in to unsustainable deals, it is worth keeping in mind that the Unlimited 55+ promo was only launched by T-Mobile in August, 2017. So customers who were just offered this deal (less than two months ago) are now being asked to upgrade and pay double the price they are currently paying for their 2-line plan to gain access to Netflix On Us – “give you something you do want, with something else you want, and keep the price the same.”

The omitted plans do not stop there either. In fact, T-Mobile lists so many ‘not included’ options in this latest uncarrier move that it is just easier to copy and paste what the T-Mobile site details in the terms and conditions. So here you go.

This is NOT available for the following plans:

  • No Credit Check
  • Prepaid
  • T-Mobile @Work
  • T-Mobile ONE Voice with a single line
  • T-Mobile ONE 2 lines for $100 tax inclusive
  • T-Mobile ONE Unlimited 55+ tax inclusive
  • Any tax excluded plans
  • Any Mobile Internet plans (including DIGITS, LineLink, and Wearable)

So make no mistake, while this is a good deal for some, it is certainly not a good deal for all T-Mobile customers, or even those who spend the most with the company on a per-line basis. Who it is a good deal for though is T-Mobile. As the carrier made sure the headline aspect of this promotion (“Netlflix on us”) was heard loud and clear, without actually pointing out that a significant number of customers are ineligible for the deal in the first place. In reality, this is a deal aimed at those who have a T-Mobile family plan with three or more people included. While it is somewhat extended out to 2-line customers, those customers shouldn’t really be paying the advertised standard price anyway – due to the number of deals that has been surfacing recently. So if you are on a 2-line plan and are paying what T-Mobile considers to be the right price for a 2-line plan, they you were paying over the odds by comparison to begin with. Speaking of 3 and 4-line customers, one important point for them to note when taking advantage of this promotion – although you do get Netflix On Us, you are only getting the ‘two stream’ version. Which means only two of those three or four family members can watch Netflix at any given time.