T-Mobile adds free Hulu to streaming service mix for mobile customers

T-Mobile is adding Hulu to the suite of streaming services offered as a free perk to customers on its highest-tier unlimited mobile plan.

On Wednesday the carrier announced subscribers to Go5G Next plans can get the ad-supported version of Disney’s Hulu included at no additional cost. Starting January 24, T-Mobile is serving up the ad-supported streamer, typically priced at $7.99 per month, to both new and existing Go5G Next customers.

And the carrier took aim at competitors in the announcement by touting that the offer isn’t for just a few months and not simply a discount on the streaming service. That’s in contrast to other carriers that have brought streaming perks into the mix, such as Verizon, which last month offered up a bundle of Netflix and Max with ads for $10 per month to its myPlan wireless subscribers. Verizon’s previously offered a free year of Netflix’s ad-free premium tier to customers through its +play aggregation platform, among other subscriptions. T-Mobile too offers some limited-time free streaming subscriptions, including a year of ViX+, the Spanish-language streaming service from TelevisaUnivision, at no extra cost for certain mobile subscribers.

However, T-Mobile’s Hulu offer doesn’t appear to have an expiration date just yet and comes at no additional cost rather than a discount on the service. That said, it does come with some caveats, as customers still need to subscribe to a Go5G Next wireless plan – it’s most expensive - which is currently available for $170 per month for three lines with autopay discounts. And if consumers want to continue to get free Hulu from T-Mobile after 12 months, they’ll need to be proactive and take action to keep receiving a complimentary subscription. If they don’t opt-in, then consumers’ Hulu subscription will auto-renew and be charged at the regular $7.99 per month, “or then-current” monthly price.  It also requires a qualifying new financed device alongside the Go5G Next plan, and then a yearly upgrade of a qualifying device in good condition after at least six months with 50% paid off.  When T-Mobile previously introduced Go5G plans, analysts noted T-Mobile and competitors were walking a tight line between offering device deals for subscribers and keeping robust cash flow for shareholders.

For T-Mobile, Hulu expands its existing streaming service “on Us” perk, which already includes AppleTV+ and Netflix. T-Mobile also offers a free season-long subscription to MLB.TV each year. Taken together the carrier said the services add up to $35 per month or $400 per year in streaming benefits.  Hulu’s library includes a wide variety of TV shows and movies including “Abbott Elementary,” “The Bear,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “Only Murderers in the Building.”

“As the Un-carrier, we go beyond delivering the incredible service that customers expect from America’s 5G leader. T-Mobile customers get the best value and the best entertainment streaming bundle in wireless — just for being customers, without having to pay a penny more,” said Mike Katz, president of Marketing, Strategy and Products at T-Mobile, in a statement.

For T-Mobile it’s another way to entice customers to its 5G wireless plans on its network, while Disney gets the opportunity to grow its subscriber tally and will typically bring in a wholesale per subscriber fee from T-Mobile. Disney also gets the opportunity to expand its ad-supported Hulu base, which generates advertising revenue.  

As mentioned, T-Mobile competitor Verizon has also looked to attract customers with value-add entertainment subscription services – including through an aggregator role via its +play subscription management platform, such as an earlier Netflix and Paramount+ with Showtime discounted bundle.

Streaming services, meanwhile, have increasingly worked with partners to bundle services, in part to lower subscriber acquisition costs and reduce churn. Paramount+ Essentials, for example, became part of the Walmart+ membership in 2022.

Hulu, meanwhile, lost 100,000 subscribers in the most recent reported quarter for its SVOD-only service, ending the period with a base of 43.9 million. Disney last year executed on taking full control of Hulu, buying out the remaining 33% stake from Comcast for an initial $8.6 billion (a price that could rise as a valuation process is still underway). Disney already offers discounted prices for those who subscribe to a bundle of Hulu and Disney+ (as well as ESPN+) and is moving to more closely integrate the two services. In December the media company launched a beta version “Hulu hub” within the Disney+ app, where users can access Hulu movie and TV show content without having to switch apps. The beta version is initially only rolling out to subscribers of the Disney streaming bundle, with a full launch planned for March 2024.