The way we consume TV is rapidly changing. It’s not always about the big screen in the corner/on the wall, people can now get their fix on the go via their tablet or mobile device, and not just free to air TV. With the acceptance of game consoles into the lounge room and onto the big screen, the delivery of television via that medium was always coming. Sony’s PS3 fired the first salvo by making iView and other services available via it’s console, well before smart TV’s started doing it. It’s major competitor, Microsoft’s XBOX360, retaliated with a pretty decent return serve in late 2010 with the delivery of the Foxtel on XBOX360 service.
The service allows you to get about half the available channels listed in various packages (no HD content available), all streamed to you via your home’s ADSL service. To ensure the quality of the service is good enough not all metro areas have access, and it isn’t available in regions where AUSTAR is available. You obviously also need an XBOX360 and an XBOX Live Gold account (about $80/year), which most gamers will have anyway to allow them to download updates and play games with people all around the world on the XBOX Live service.
I live in a suburb in south-western Brisbane and only have access to an ADSL1 serivce (max speed 8Mbps down/256Kbps up), so I was surprised at picture quality was so good. There is a slight wait when you change channel to allow the content to pre-load (“buffering”) before you see a picture, but it’s no more than 2-3 seconds. The service requires a minimum speed of 1.5Mbps, so I’d offer if you’re just above this the buffering may take a few seconds longer. The menu system is simple enough to interact with using the XBOX360 controller and it displays all the program information clearly and easily. Apart for me using the controller as the remote and the content available, it was difficult to distinguish the difference betweent the service delivered via IP versus that of free-to-air (with the exception of the HD content available FTA).
Being a Foxtel virgin, I didn’t know what to expect from the experience. It surprised me that I get to see the full menu of channels when I’d only signed up for the basic “Get Started” package (the menu includes all the HD content which is not accessible at all via the XBOX360 service, though I do understand the soft marketing technique in play to encourage you to sign up for a larger package/proper service). There is no ability to record via this service, though you can use the catch up service which supplys a number of programs to you in an on-demand fashion once they’ve aired elsewhere on the network. There are packages that cover just about every channel, however, so you’re not short on content.
As a Telstra Bigpond customer for my home internet services, it was good news earlier in 2011 to hear that the Foxtel on XBOX360 service would become completely unmetered content, not counting toward your monthly download limit (the service when launched was not included as unmetered). This was only a benefit to me, though people subscribed to other ISPs with much larger download quotas monthly may find this to not be an issue, depending on their usage.
The biggest issue I had was that I signed up for the service exclusively to watch The 2011 Emmy Awards live on FOX8. It wasn’t until AFTER I’d signed up that I learned of the Foxtel blackout list which lists all programs for the month that will not be available on alternate broadcast services (like Foxtel on XBOX360). For September, this included the Emmy Awards. Ludicrous that: a) the existence of this list was not made clear during the sign up process; & b) with no ability to record via the XBOX360 service that Foxtel didn’t go into bat and push to allow these blackout shows to be available via this IP delivery method (the major reason the shows are blacked out in the first place). These blackouts also affect the Telstra Tbox service.
You can, however, cancel your account at any time, which is what I’m just about to do. I’ve only been watching a couple of things on it and I really don’t have the time (or the $20 at the moment) to feed to it. I hope to return to it soon, though.
It’s a pretty good service for the delivery method, provided you don’t want to record anything to view any of the HD channels. With the inclusion of iView and other free-to-air services to the XBOX360 service by Christmas 2011 in Australia, it becomes part of a broader benefit of using your games console for more than just gaming.