T-Mobile gives former AT&T customers a free year of Hulu, because DirecTV Now doesn’t work

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In December, T-Mobile ran a promotion which offered customers switching from AT&T a free year of AT&T’s new live TV service, DirecTV Now. The offer was meant to help stem the tide of potential customer losses, given DirecTV Now’s discounted pricing for newcomers, and its promises to zero-rate the streaming service on its network – meaning it wouldn’t count towards the data usage on AT&T customers’ plans. But DirecTV Now hasn’t been working as promised, and today T-Mobile says it wants to make that right with its customers – by giving them a free year of Hulu.

T-Mobile had originally offered the free year of DirecTV Now not only to retain customers, but also to make the point that the DirecTV Now live TV service was not exclusive to AT&T.

It’s not surprising that some customers may have taken T-Mobile up on the deal, switching from AT&T in order to take advantage of T-Mobile’s ONE plan.

After all, DirecTV Now sounded good on paper – a low-cost live TV service with access to over 100 channels, and the option to add premium networks like HBO for just $5 more per month. But early adopters have been disappointed with the service’s performance, which has suffered from glitches, freezing, buffering, and other issues. The Verge called it near unusable and, as TechCrunch reported, many customers were so angry they were denied refunds, they’ve filed complaints with the FCC. 

T-Mobile today says it wants to keep these AT&T switchers happy, and is giving them a free year of Hulu in addition to the free year of DirecTV Now.

“It turns out DirecTV Now is barely watchable, but we’ve got our customers’ backs,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement, which also disparaged the rival network. “Even I can’t believe AT&T spent $67 billion on DirecTV and still couldn’t roll out a streaming service that worked,” he added.

The announcement was made just ahead of AT&T’s earnings call, taking place later today.

Customers who switched from AT&T to T-Mobile for the DirecTV Now offer will receive a notification from T-Mobile in the next few weeks that will give their a free year of Hulu’s limited commercials service. This is Hulu’s basic package, and is typically $7.99 per month.

This isn’t T-Mobile’s first time to use Hulu as a lure. The operator in December 2015 also promised a free year to those who switched from Verizon.

Despite T-Mobile’s move to keep its customers happy, the reality is that, glitches or not, AT&T’s DirecTV Now presents a viable threat. Even though DirecTV Now faced numerous glitches, the service managed to sign up 200,000 subscribers in its first month alone. That’s a faster pace than Dish’s Sling TV. DirecTV Now will likely draw a number of customers to AT&T’s network going forward, as well, especially as the service stabilizes.