To start with, if you own an existing Telstra TV, then by 31 October you'll get a free upgrade to the new Telstra TV 2 UI, which features the improved universal search, but obviously won't feature free-to-air TV.
That feature is possible on the new Telstra TV 2, as it has an antenna in the back, able to decode SD and HD free-to-air TV signals, delivering a truly unified experience.
About the only thing you can't do is to record live TV, which is a shame, but with the proliferation of catch-up TV services and shows available to stream from paid TV services such as Netflix, Stan or for purchase via BigPond movies, this is less of an issue than it would have been in the past.
Indeed, that could at the very least see volume buttons added to the Telstra TV app, which would be better than not having them.
Of course you can control the volume with your regular TV remote, but with the Foxtel remote offering its own volume control for 20 years, it's something we hope to see come as standard in next year's presumed Telstra TV 3.
In any case, Telstra is proudly boasting of having "united the three worlds of TV – free-to-air, subscription TV and on-demand streaming", and it's all coming on 31 October to retail stores.
Here's the full launch video, the article continues below, and at the end of the article is a demo of the new UI.
The unit will be part of Telstra's $99 bundle, will be on sale outright for $192, and can be added to your bundle for $8 per month if you don't already have one.
Telstra also states its new TV 2 "will include a series of Australian-first innovations that are set to liberate the way consumers experience TV at home and on the go".
We're told that "with 83% of Australians watching live broadcast TV each week and the average Australian watching 70 hours of live-to-air TV each month" (per OzTAM's 2017 Australian Video Viewing Report from Regional TAM, OzTAM and Nielsen stats), the "second generation Telstra TV now includes an integrated free-to-air tuner, so Australians can enjoy even more of the content they love".
As per last year, it's still a Roku Powered, customised by Telstra, and it "builds on the success of its predecessor which launched in 2015, becoming "the fastest selling streaming device in Australia, achieving more than one million sales since its release".
Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn noted the new Telstra TV was another milestone in delivering on the company's vision to be a world class technology company that empowers people to connect, and he said: "Telstra TV is a perfect example of how we can build software and service layers on top of our leading networks to provide new value and differentiated experiences for our customers."
Executive director of Media, Michele Garra, noted the new Telstra TV was designed to make it enjoyable for consumers to find and discover entertainment, and she said: "Entertainment plays a huge role in our lives and there’s never been more content — live or streaming — available for Australians than there is right now to watch on TV screens, mobile, tablet and laptops.
“Despite this innovation and choice it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to find what they want to watch, in addition to the frustration of switching between services and devices to keep the whole family happy and entertained.”
This consumer pain point was highlighted in recent research (1187 Australians surveyed nationally aged 18 and over, conducted on behalf of Telstra by Pure Profile in August 2017) that found "65% of viewers were frustrated after not being able to locate the content they set out to find".
Telstra says its device "aims to help reduce that frustration by providing Australia’s first integrated search function – allowing users to search and discover content across all five catch-up services (ABC iView, SBS On Demand, +7, 9NOW and Tenplay), plus Foxtel Now, BigPond Movies, Stan and Netflix and every free-to-air live channel.
"Once users have found what they are looking for, the new Telstra TV will take them straight to the content using deep linking technology. Offering a unique mobile app and set top box integration, the new Telstra TV mobile app (available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store) allows users to search, plan and play content anytime, anywhere. The app also acts as a second remote control for your Telstra TV home device."
As noted above, it's also new 4K HDR capable, HDR 10 to be precise, and thus has a 4x higher resolution, compared to standard HD, when connected to a 4K HDR capable television and when streaming 4K content.
In addition, streaming will become more efficient, reducing demands on the network and improving the viewing experience for consumers as more and more content is encoded in "High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC)".
Garra added: “We know that the high-quality digital experiences we are providing to more Australians will continue to differentiate and drive value for our mobile and broadband customers.
“This is just the beginning for the new Telstra TV, with future product iterations like voice activation, personalised recommendations and more content partners. It will ensure our customers are connecting with the entertainment they love now and in the future.
"Our partnership with Roku, a pioneer of streaming to the TV, has made the new Telstra TV possible. Roku and Telstra have worked together to custom build the device and bring this brilliant experience to Australia.”
The new Telstra TV will continue to be included with Telstra’s great value $99 bundle from 31 October and is exclusive to Telstra Broadband Customers.
The new Telstra TV requires a compatible TV with a HDMI port. A minimum Internet speed of 3.5mbps is recommended. An antenna is required to access free to air channels in your area. Subscription and data charges apply for apps and streaming. Search not available across all apps.
More information is at Telstra TV here.
Here's a demo of the Telstra TV 2 filmed after the launch: