It’s a rather open question, because it depends on how you look at it exactly. Here’s my breakdown of the Pay-TV’s IPTV offerings strengths and weaknesses.
Foxtel’s had IPTV offerings for some time through, for example, Xbox 360 or the Foxtel Go service it offers to existing customers with iOS devices, but Foxtel Play is its first cross-channel IPTV offering; it’ll work across PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and “eligible” Samsung Smart TVs, offering a range of packages starting from $25/month with no contract and a 7-day available trial.
It’s a pricing plan that extends outwards; $25 buys you one block of channels; $35 buys you two sets, $45 buys three and $50 buys all four, with two “premium” tiers for Sports and Movies, which cost $25 extra each no matter how many other bundles you’ve purchased.
In one sense, it’s a welcome change simply because it’s a reasonable enough interest breakdown for those who’d complain that they pay for Pay-TV simply for just a few channels. In theory, if your tastes match up to Foxtel’s presumptions, you’re not paying for, say, the kids package if you don’t have kids, or the sports package if you don’t like sport. It’s that kind of granular “I only want to pay for some things” idea spread across a smorgasbord of channels.
Here’s the rundown of the channel offerings; if you subscribe to any you get the Bonus channels, as well as access to Foxtel Go for 2 eligible additional devices.
Foxtel Play: The hidden catches
Foxtel isn’t cutting its own Pay TV throat here to speak of. If you wanted the full Foxtel Play suite, you’d be dropping $100 per month. At current rates, $109.50 per month (without haggling or waiting for a better deal, if you’re in an eligible area) would score you the full Foxtel offering plus an IQ set top box for recording purposes. Play doesn’t have any recording built in; you’re limited to whatever’s available via the On Demand service instead. A “full” Foxtel customer also gets 3 devices for Go rather than 2 for Play customers.
You could argue that perhaps you don’t care about the set top box and only have two other Go devices, and therefore you’d be saving ten bucks per month.
Except that you wouldn’t be, and that’s because of the other hidden catch with any IPTV service. When you purchase a full Foxtel service, it’s supplied to you via Foxtel’s own infrastructure. When you pay for Foxtel Play, you’re providing the infrastructure in the form of your home broadband connection.
Play’s likely to follow the Foxtel Go model, which means that an hour’s worth of watching should equate to around 1GB of data. You’re paying for that data above and beyond your Foxtel Play subscription, and even on moderate plans, that’s likely to exceed $10 of usage per month unless you watch nothing… in which case there’s no point. I suppose those on Unlimited plans could do well enough out of it in that context.
As you can see from the small print above, there’s also some exclusions based on your device of choice when accessing Foxtel Play; my guess there is that it’s to do with specific Internet broadcast rights that Foxtel doesn’t currently hold.
Foxtel Play: The pachyderm in the room
Then there’s the issue that in going IPTV, Foxtel opens itself up to a whole bunch of other competitive offerings. There’s FetchTV, if you’re with Optus, iiNet or Adam. There’s ABC’s excellent iView, which is quota free on a whole raft of ISPs.
Then there’s Netflix.
Yes, it’s a breach of its terms and conditions to access it from Australia, but there’s no doubting it happens; Choice has recently been advocating for it, and the conclusions of the IT pricing inquiry suggested that Geoblocking of content was something that had to go. I’m not entirely convinced that this will happen within the context of entertainment, but it’s something that’s becoming far more widely known and utilised by Australians.
As I stated in the intro, however, value is a relative proposition, not an absolute one. If one of the $25 packages had channels that appealed to you and your ISP’s data allowance was good enough to stand up to it, and you got, say, 25 hours worth of programming out of it per month, which is only 1hr per day, then I’d find it hard to call it “bad” value. That being said, though, as always, it pays to shop around and consider your alternatives.