Just when you thought T-Mobile’s gratis data promotions for subscribers couldn’t get any better, a bevy of new services are joining the fray. Starting Tuesday, video from NBC, Univision, Qello Concerts, Google Play Music, Tidal, and more won’t count against eligible subscribers’ data caps as part of the magenta carrier’s Binge On benefit. The expansion in providers, T-Mobile said, brings the total number of partners on board to “more than 80.”
Binge On will now support Univision Noticias, Great Big Story, Ligonier Ministries, Nickelodeon NOGGIN, Radio Disney, Spotify, and Toon Goggles, in addition to the aforementioned services. Eagle-eyed readers will note than many of providers listed in the latest announcement were already a part of T-Mobile’s Music Freedom, but crucially, those partnerships only covered audio programming; video highlights from NBC and music videos from Google Play Music, for example, weren’t exempt from data caps.
Spotify’s perhaps the biggest add in terms of breadth of content. The music service’s video section, which launched earlier this year, offers original programming and exclusive clips from content partners such as ESPN, Vice, and Wired.
T-Mobile took today’s announcement as an opportunity to tout Binge On’s admittedly impressive statistics. Subscribers have streamed more than 377 million hours of video since Binge On’s launch, the self-styled “uncarrier” said, and more than twice as much from providers participating in the program than those who aren’t. Even better news for content makers? In a survey of U.S. wireless customers, 94 percent said they’d “try a new online service if it were a part of a free data offering” like Binge On.
“In the six months since we launched Binge On, the number of video providers streaming free without using your data has grown more than 240 percent,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. “We’ve got something for everyone, and customers never have to worry about getting slammed with ridiculous overage penalties.”
Binge On isn’t without its detractors, of course. Earlier this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation drew attention to the fact that Binge On “optimizes” video on its network by reducing the resolution and bandwidth of all streams agnostically, even those from providers who haven’t joined T-Mobile’s service (earlier this year, T-Mobile began allowing select services to use their own methods of video compression). And a study by Standford University in January claimed that T-Mobile’s Binge On created arbitrary barriers for smaller providers in a way that “limits user choice, distorts competition, stifles innovation, and harms free speech on the Internet.”
Despite the controversy, Binge On is on firm legal footing in the eyes of the Federal Communications Commission. Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, has said he doesn’t believe that the program runs afoul of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet rules regarding net neutrality. In an FCC meeting last late last year, he called it “highly innovative” and “competitive.” For the folks whose House of Cards habit would majorly dent their data cap, that’s no doubt comforting.