Monday, 20 June 2011 12:18

Xbox or T-Box: cunning plans from a foxy IPTV provider


With Foxtel already Australia's premier pay TV service, available on its own iQ2 boxes and the Xbox 360, Foxtel's 50% owner is set to unveil Foxtel on its own T-Box from Sunday the 27th of June.

If you live in an area where Foxtel is available, but you don't have Optus or Telstra cable, and don't want a satellite dish, you used to be out of luck - until Foxtel decided to finally go IPTV.

This meant using set-top boxes other than Foxtel's own, with the Xbox 360 and Telstra's own T-Box turning out to be excellent candidates to deliver a Foxtel IPTV service.

Naturally, Foxtel's own iQ2 box offers the full range of Foxtel channels, along with the ability to pause, rewind, record and fast forward the live Foxtel channels, something the Xbox 360 and T-Box are unable to currently do.

However, both the Xbox 360 and T-Box plans for Foxtel offer cheaper pricing and no contracts, no need for pay TV cable and a smaller channel selection, although those who are watching 'catch up TV' or on-demand streaming movies will be able to rewind, pause and fast-forward as required.

Naturally, you will need a broadband connection, and while initial users will need BigPond Internet delivered over Pay TV cable to take advantage of Foxtel on T-Box, where the "full" Foxtel service could be accessed instead, Telstra will deliver Foxtel on T-Box over BigPond ADSL connections too, but only 'in the coming months'.

We did ask whether pausing, rewinding, fast forwarding or recording of Foxtel content would come to the T-Box, and were told that we'd have to wait for information from future Foxtel on T-Box or Xbox 360 roadmaps, and that this capability wasn't available at launch, and was only available on Foxtel's own boxes.

As you'd expect, BigPond subscribers will get the Foxtel streams in an unmetered fashion, something that isn't being extended to users of other ISPs, or at least, not yet.

While there are no contracts to worry about, letting users dip-in and out on a monthly basis, there are a range of plans to tempt T-Box users.

The 'basic starter service' comes with 11 channels and costs AUD $19.50 per month, with 'entertainment, sport and movie packages' form $10 to $15 per month available to add on top of the basic package.

Telstra's Executive Director of Media, J-B Rousselot said: 'Three out of four T-Box customers are families so we designed the new Foxtel service with value for money, quality home entertainment, and flexibility at the top of the list.

'The flexibility of no long term commitments with the Foxtel packages means our customers can have more control over their entertainment and the family budget.'

Foxtel's Executive Director of Product and Sales, Patrick Delany said: 'Making Foxtel's channels available to Telstra T-Box customers is another way for viewers to watch our premium programming without the need for a Foxtel set-top-box. It's simple to sign up online and start watching streaming TV. The Foxtel on T-Box TV packages are incredibly flexible and offer Catch Up TV so you can watch your favourite shows when it suits you.'

Continued on page two, please read on!

Now, if you're an Xbox 360 user who doesn't have a T-Box, the chances of you getting a T-Box are probably slim, because who needs yet another box under their TV?

That said, however, there are plenty who still haven't yet jumped aboard the set-top box bandwagon, or who need a new one, and Telstra's T-Box does have its benefits beyond letting you record free-to-air TV.

Telstra naturally promotes the '2000 plus films already available for download through BigPond Movies' and has been advertising this on TV with one of the Daddo brothers using that 'in-a-world movie preview guy's' voice, with nary a sign of Foxtel on T-Box, although this will presumably soon change.

One also wonders when the Foxtel and Austar buyout deals will be complete, which would presumably allow Foxtel to offer its services in places that Austar currently holds, including regional areas and also in the 'Northern Territory or Tasmania', where the 'Foxtel on T-Box' offering is 'Foxtel on unavailable'.

We did ask Telstra whether a newer, widescreen and even sharper resolution version of Mobile Foxtel for iPhones and other smartphones would appear, along with any Foxtel on iPad service, but Telstra was unable to give any additional details on either when, or if, such improvements or announcements would happen.

There's also no ability to get Fox News on either the Xbox 360 or the T-Box, which means that fans and/or haters of that network will need the full Foxtel-supplied iQ or iQ2 boxes and a subscription to get that particular channel to watch.

Also, although Foxtel is now available via IPTV, there's no news on when Foxtel will go truly a-la-carte, allowing people to simply buy the channels they want to buy, rather than being forced to buy plans with channels that end-users might have zero interest in watching.

Hey, it might be one way to get more subscribers, while at the same time introducing the risk that expensive bundles would be shunned in favour of just the channels people really want to watch.

Indeed, that risk exists now, with some Foxtel subscribers potentially deciding to switch to a T-Box or Xbox 360 provided service, although that is why Foxtel itself, through its own boxes, is the only truly 'full-service' deliverer of Foxtel products.

Ah well. Pay television is clearly a successful business, despite the expanded selection of free-to-air channels.

But the old adage can often remain: dozens or even hundreds of channels, with sometimes still nothing to watch!

Click here for more info on Foxtel on T-Box from Telstra.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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