T-Mobile Reveals Details of Quibi Distribution Deal

Quibi Phone - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Quibi

Some T-Mobile customers will get early access to Jennifer Lopez-produced unscripted series 'Thanks a Million.'

T-Mobile is giving Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s Quibi a boost in its bid to lure subscribers, announcing Wednesday that some wireless customers will get a free one-year membership to the mobile-first video service.

The deal, first struck in October, means that people who signed up for T-Mobile’s family plans won’t have to pay the standard $5-per-month fee for Quibi’s base ad-supported subscription. To sweeten the incentive, customers who sign up via the rewards app T-Mobile Tuesdays will have early access to three episodes of the Jennifer Lopez-produced unscripted series Thanks A Million.  

"We saw this as a no brainer," Sarah Osmer, vp customer and business management for T-Mobile, tells THR, noting that 61 percent of T-Mobile’s network consumption is mobile video. "No surprise, Quibi will fit right in." T-Mobile is not disclosing the terms of the deal.

T-Mobile, long the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, completed its $30 billion merger with Sprint on Tuesday. It now has 100 million customers. Promotional offers — in addition to Quibi, T-Mobile has given away Netflix for free to some customers since 2017 — are one way that the company has sought to lure subscribers away from rivals AT&T and Verizon. But such perks have become more common. Last fall, Verizon teamed with Disney to offer a year free of Disney+ to certain customers, and AT&T will bundle HBO Max, which is being developed at its WarnerMedia division, with some mobile and broadband plans when the streamer launches this spring.

Quibi is set to launch on April 6 with more than 50 shows. All of its programming — from Liam Hemsworth thriller Most Dangerous Game to a reboot of Punk’d — will be told in installments of 10 minutes or less. In addition to the ad-supported subscription, Quibi is offering an ad-free experience for $8 per month.

"Quibi and T-Mobile are a perfect match — we’re both changing our industries by giving our customers what they want in truly unique and innovative ways," said Whitman, Quibi’s CEO, in a statement.

Unlike other new offerings from Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, Quibi doesn’t have tentpole movie and TV franchises or classic library IP to help it lure subscribers. Instead, it’s producing all original programming, including news-driven shows that refresh every 24 hours called Daily Essentials.

Early awareness of the service is low. In a THR/Morning Consult poll conducted March 19-21, 68 percent of respondents said they had heard nothing about Quibi. The deal with T-Mobile could help change that by introducing Quibi to prospective new customers that it hasn’t already reached with its Super Bowl spot and $500 million year-one marketing budget. LightShed Partners media analyst Rich Greenfield predicts the deal could help Quibi garner as many as 10 million subscribers in its first year.

"We are actually part of the strategy of bringing brand new content in a brand new format to the table," says Osmer. "We think we are a very big part of their continued strategy." T-Mobile had intended to pull out all the stops to promote its the partnership in stores and to feature Quibi talent in its marketing. But the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. halted those plans. Quibi, too, had to cancel the party it was planning for the eve of its launch. In spite of the uncertain climate, Katzenberg and Whitman have decided to go forward with the planned launch date.

T-Mobile has responded to the pandemic by making some changes to its offering, including allowing its customers to subscribe to both Netflix and Quibi for free for the first year. People receiving first-responder and military discounts are also eligible for the offer.

"T-Mobile customers have always been ahead of the curve — streaming more data, watching more mobile video — so when we first heard about Quibi, we knew our customers would love it," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s newly appointed CEO, in a statement. "And, with more of us staying home right now, Quibi’s never been more needed. It comes on the scene with a totally different experience, made for mobile, quick to watch and as entertaining as anything you’ve ever seen."

T-Mobile customers can sign up for the Quibi deal between April 6 and July 7.