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March 18, 2022

US carriers extend free streaming content to new service bundles

Premium wireless plans featuring free streaming content access have become the norm in the US market. The arrival of similar service bundles in the fixed broadband and connected car spaces validate this approach’s success.

The streaming content space has experienced a seismic shift over the last decade. The expansion of 5G networks and supported devices has further changed users’ content and viewing preferences. US wireless carriers are now relying on bundled service plans, created in alliance with their streaming content partners to attract subscribers and increase ARPU.

These partnerships are a win-win for all parties as carriers have an opportunity to upsell users and content providers get to increase their access points.

Bundled home internet plans – a logical expansion

As wireless carriers increasingly compete with entrenched internet service providers, they are copying their successful mobile service bundles by throwing in exclusive perks for their fixed wireless access (FWA) internet services, leveraging their content partnerships to drive interest.

For example, T-Mobile US’ mobile and Home Internet users can now get free access to Paramount+ for one year. Meanwhile, Verizon recently extended Disney Bundle access beyond certain mobile service plans to its FiOS and Home Internet users as a trial for up to 12 months. For a limited time, Verizon is also including free two-month trials of Dish Network’s Sling TV streaming service with new mobile, Verizon Fios and 5G Home accounts. HBO Max, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia division, is included at no extra charge in AT&T’s Unlimited Elite wireless plan and also in AT&T’s fiber broadband Internet 1000 and higher plans.

In the case of traditional fixed broadband, including access to streaming content with internet plans encourages users to subscribe to high-end data and speedier tiers which will benefit the carriers’ bottom line. The situation is different with internet delivered via fixed wireless access, which Verizon and T-Mobile are each offering with unlimited data and only a single speed tier. Including streaming content in certain wired or wireless fixed internet plans or mobile plans contributes to customer retention as users will lose access if they downgrade or cancel their service.

Connected car bundles arrive

AT&T continues to make innovative moves in the connected car services segment as well. The carrier launched WarnerMedia RIDE last year, giving vehicle owners a new reason to subscribe to an unlimited plan on AT&T’s connected car service. The service enables content to be delivered to mobile devices connected to in-car Wi-Fi hotspots. The timing for this introduction was optimal, as many vehicle owners are logging fewer miles due to work-from- home options but are taking more vacation road trips.

As an indication of the service’s success, this month, AT&T added HBO Max as a separate bundle option to this portfolio which will help spike interest among the target audience. The new option bundles AT&T Unlimited In-car Wi-Fi with ad-free HBO Max, offering a combined savings of $4.99 per month (when compared to the price of Unlimited In-car Wi-Fi plus the normal fee of $14.99 per month for ad-free HBO Max). As carriers continue to seek out avenues to increase revenue and grow their customer bases in new service segments, streaming content can be a valuable and unique VAS. We can expect to see more activity, both in the form of new alliances as well as new bundle plan options, in the near future.