It’s the low-cost alternative to Foxtel, or a PVR on serious steroids. But is it worth paying money for? That depends somewhat on your TV tastes — and an awful lot on your ISP.
Fetch TV: On the plus side
Fetch TV isn’t a new product per se; the service itself has been around for a number of years, and as a matter of fact there’s been a first generation Fetch box under my TV for the last six months or so, largely because it came as part of an Optus bundle.
What I’m reviewing today is a slightly newer box; it’s smaller and thus a bit easier to hide amongst the not-so-small army of devices that make their home around my TV.
Ports and connections remain identical to earlier models, so there’s an antenna pass-through arrangement, HDMI out and Ethernet in. From the PVR point of view, Fetch is similar to TiVo or for that matter Foxtel’s iQ in that you’ve got to have an ethernet connection at all times feeding data to the FetchTV box. As such, that’s why FetchTV is a product that’s offered through a small selection of ISPs; essentially speaking iiNet and its subsidiaries, and Optus.
You can purchase at FetchTV box — although I’m not at all sure why you would — or opt to pay a small monthly fee for the basic service. This varies a little by ISP, but as a benchmark you’ll pay around $10/month for the basic FetchTV service, which covers free to air TV, recording, catch-up TV and the ability to rent movies, as well as watch those provided in the Movie Box application. Optus varies here, as it currently only offers Fetch as part of a larger bundle of services.
Fetch also has a smattering of PayTV channels, including MTV, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Disney, Al Jazeera and BBC World News. It’s very much a Foxtel-lite type service, although if you were only interested in the channels Fetch offers, it’s very clearly a nice cheap way to get access.
The Fetch TV on screen display takes a little getting used to, but the learning curve isn’t too steep. I’d still put the TiVo ahead of it in pure user friendliness terms, but then TiVo is functionally dead in Australia, so the comparison isn’t entirely helpful. What is helpful is that we discussed Fetch TV at length in a recent episode of Vertical Hold, which you can watch below!
FetchTV also provides apps for Android and iOS that allow for remote control, recording selection and streaming of movies (both paid and from Movie Box) and content you’ve recorded to be played back on your remote device.
Fetch TV: On the minus side
Or at least, that’s the theory. As I discovered, there’s no issue with the catchup or movie portions — which is to say the bits that are pure IP delivery mechanisms, because they worked just fine through the FetchTV app.
Streaming programs I’d recorded though, was an entirely different story, and it took me some time to work out why. Ultimately, it isn’t Fetch TV’s fault, but it’s still a major problem for a certain section of Fetch TV users.
The setup process for streaming your own recorded programs involves pairing the FetchTV box with your device of choice via a Pin Code. This is easy enough, and then you’re presented with the option to view “your stuff” on your device.
My only issue here is that, despite having a variety of programs (including the hundreds of hours of Phineas & Ferb that my kids seem determined to record), the app reported zero available programs.
The same was true if I tried to use a DLNA client to view the Fetch TV box. It came up as a device I could browse, but with absolutely nothing actually available.
I tried rebooting. I tried reinstalling the application. I kicked around some network settings on my router, just in case. All to no avail. Then I went researching, and found out that there’s one big caveat with remote streaming from Fetch TV.
You can’t do it if you’re an Optus customer.
This seems to be a matter of policy, at least according to this thread in Optus’ customer support forums. Fetch TV to Optus is just a PVR. Any streaming/DLNA features are off-limits.
I don’t actively think that Optus particularly wants to annoy its customers (including me); I have this sneaking suspicion that its reluctance to support remote streaming relates to the legal smackdown it got handed around its own TV Now product.
That’s pure supposition in case any lawyers are reading, but the practical implication is that if you’re keen on FetchTV, I’ve got to advise against getting it from Optus, because what you’d be getting is a deliberately crippled product. Not good enough, Optus!
Most of my other concerns with Fetch TV are relatively minor. The remote control is cluttered and feels a little cheap, and obviously you could just buy an actual PVR from the likes of Topfield or Humax rather than pay a rental fee for one.
Fetch TV: Pricing
A FetchTV box is technically worth $299. I’m not sure why you’d buy one outright, because they’re not functional without a subscription, and as such you’d be better off simply renting one, or having it bundled in with other services.
Fetch TV: Fat Duck verdict
Fetch TV is clearly a product of two types. It’s either a souped up PVR — and in that scope, leaving aside the Optus issues — it’s a rather good one, or it’s a low-rent PayTV service, and on that score, given the price charged for Foxtel Play, I’ve got to say it’s relatively weak. Again, though, that depends on the channels you’re after in the first place.
Either way, if you’re keen, steer clear of Optus if you like the FetchTV concept.