T-Mobile opted to back YouTube TV (YTTV) when it ended its own TVision streaming service, but customers are being left in the cold.
Like many T-Mobile customers, I cheered the company’s entry into the TV streaming market. The magenta carrier has a well-earned reputation for putting customers first and has revolutionized the cell phone industry. Unfortunately, TVision was not meant to be, and T-Mobile announced it was shutting it down less than six months later.
T-Mobile partnered with Google to give its customers a discount on YouTube TV as an alternative to TVision. On paper, the deal looked good: one of the leading streaming platforms for a reasonable discount.
Fast forward a year and a half later, and the partnership between the two companies has resulted in an exceptionally poor experience for the consumer, a shocking departure for T-Mobile, a company that has built its brand on customer service.
There are two main ways this partnership fails, both of which I experienced after giving YTTV a try after using Sling TV exclusively since TVision’s demise. As someone who tries to use Google’s services an absolute minimum over privacy concerns, I was lured to try YTTV with a half-price offer for T-Mobile customers that were enrolled in their Magenta MAX plans and used their T-Mobile Home Internet service.
Almost immediately, I started getting warnings when watching local channels that I was not in my local area, as defined by the zip code I entered when signing up for YTTV.
I went through the steps to verify my account, but each attempt pinged my location to a city nearly 100 miles away. This wasn’t particularly surprising since using internet speed testing services often showed that city as the location of the T-Mobile servers my internet was being routed through.
Ultimately, there was no way to get my computer to properly reflect my location since it was entirely dependent on where T-Mobile was routing my traffic. I was able to get it working by using my mobile phone to verify my location, but it’s an imperfect solution. The steps must be followed for each browser you use, and it is temporary, meaning you have to periodically go through the steps to keep your location accurate.
I reached out to Twitter to get assistance from T-Mobile’s support team, and while the person I dealt with was very helpful, they were unable to fix the issue. Why? Because T-Mobile’s Home Internet does not support TV streaming services that are location-based.
To be perfectly clear: T-Mobile partnered with a TV streaming service that offers localized channels — based on your location — knowing full well that T-Mobile Home Internet was not compatible with that service. Ironically, Sling TV works perfectly with T-Mobile Home Internet despite T-Mobile’s customer support rep saying otherwise.
What’s more, the company cannot claim that it did not intend for T-Mobile Home Internet users to use YTTV with the service since it specifically offered a half-off discount for T-Mobile Home Internet users.
To intentionally promote a service that you know is not compatible and won’t work for the very users being targeted is incredibly disappointing at best…unethical at worst.
Billing Issues and Disappearing Discounts
The second issue is disappearing discounts when YTTV is paused for any reason.
This happened to me through a combination of factors. I had YTTV set up on autopay with one of my debit cards. The card expired and I had to activate the new one.
As I mentioned earlier, I try to use Google as little as possible due to the company’s long history of not respecting user privacy. As a result, while I have a Gmail account, I don’t use it and have set up an alternative email in my Google account.
Like many people who use autopay, when it comes time to update my card I often forget exactly what services are set up on that card until I get notified. Despite having an alternate email set up, Google only sent notifications of the card’s expiration directly to my Gmail account…which I rarely if ever check.
While watching TV, I was suddenly presented with a screen saying the service had been paused until I could update my card, which I promptly did. Imagine my surprise when I was charged the full amount, rather than the half-price amount I had been paying.
After messaging and calling Google’s customer support, I was told that any pause, for any reason, canceled out any promotional deals. What’s more, because T-Mobile no longer offers the half-off discount (it abruptly ended shortly after I pointed out to T-Mobile customer support the questionable ethics involved), there was absolutely no way for me to regain the half-off discount.
Taken together, these two issues shine a spotlight on a major failing of T-Mobile and YouTube TV’s partnership: customer service.
A customer support failing of this magnitude is particularly disappointing as a T-Mobile customer. The company built its brand and owes its amazing turnaround to its legendary customer service. To intentionally promote a partnership with, and offer discounts for, a service that doesn’t work well for its customers is a rare but inexcusable lapse in its otherwise stellar customer service.
For Google’s part, as someone who rarely uses the company’s services, I can’t and won’t comment on whether this is in line with the customer service it normally offers.
At the same time, however, it’s not a good look for Google to be jumping at every possible opportunity to negate customers’ promotional discounts, even if they never intentionally paused or canceled their service.
Taken together, T-Mobile and Google provide a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the current TV streaming market.
What I wouldn’t give for the old TVision. Short of that, I’d settle for T-Mobile partnering with a service that’s actually compatible with its Home Internet.