Foxtel, the Australian pay-television provider, is planning an online television service to be available across a range of internet connected televisions and games consoles and on compatible computers tablets and smartphones. Foxtel Play is part of a bundle of services that could significantly extend the reach of pay-television services in Australia.
The Foxtel Play service will launch in June with a range of channel packages starting at AU$25 a month, with no need for a long-term contract.
“Foxtel Play is the next step in the evolution of our entertainment offering,” said Richard Freudenstein, the chief executive of Foxtel. “Our core subscription service, which remains the cornerstone of our business, has recently been augmented by a greatly enlarged On Demand offering and, of course, Foxtel Go, both included for residential subscribers.”
“Foxtel Play develops our ‘off the box’ internet TV products by expanding on the existing Foxtel on Xbox 360 and Foxtel on Internet TV services to provide one Foxtel internet TV offering across multiple devices.”
He said it is a new way for people who have not yet experienced Foxtel to enjoy programming at flexible price points.
At launch, Foxtel Play will provide over 40 channels and more than 2,000 catch video on demand titles. Foxtel Play customers will also receive the Foxtel Go service, available on compatible personal computers, Apple iOS and selected Android smartphones and tablets, with channels available according to their package.
The approach is similar to that of Sky in the United Kingdom. Unlike Now TV, powered by Sky, Foxtel Play will retain the parent brand but will follow a similar model of providing pay-as-you-go access to premium programming.
Since its merger with Austar in 2012, Foxtel is the main pay-television service in Australia, with around 2.3 million subscribing homes. Foxtel is now equally owned by News Corporation and Telstra Corporation.
Foxtel already offers its services through the Telstra T-box, Microsoft X-box and Samsung smart televisions. This offering will be relaunched in June as part of Foxtel Play.
Addressing the annual conference at The Sydney Convention Centre of ASTRA, the Australian Subsciption Radio and Television Association, the chief executive of Foxtel spoke of “a journey of transformation Foxtel is on as it prepares for the next phase of growth in a broadband world.”
He said: “multi-screen viewing is an increasingly popular way to watch and interact with television content. Foxtel is developing the products and relationships that will enable our subscribers to experience television in a multi-platform environment.”
“We realise that in the connected world everyone expects delivery of content to be simultaneous and seamless no matters where you are.”
“Even though cable and satellite delivery of channels to a television will remain the cornerstone of the business, and will continue to grow strongly, content views on other devices or delivered by other means will become increasingly common.”
Foxtel Go is offered as a complementary service to existing subscribers and has so far been downloaded to over 500,000 devices, in less than six months.
The Foxtel IQ digital video recorder now provides access to online programmes through a network connnection, and will gain the ability to scroll back through the electronic programme guide to watch or record programmes you have missed.
“This is the perfect example of a seamless combination of broadcast and broadband to create a better viewing experience,” he said. “It will be yet another reason to ensure your box has an IP return path.”
A new digital video recorder, the IQ3, is in the pipeline, which will have three times the processing power and eight times more storage, with no less than eight satellite or cable tuners, and two further terrestrial tuners in the satellite version.
A partnership with zeebox has also been announced, bringing Foxtel content in to the zeebox app, and integrating the zeebox social television platform into the Foxtel Guide app. Zeebox had previously announced a deal with the free-to-air Network Ten.
Foxtel also plans to announce a standalone subscription video on demand movie service available for a monthly fee. Netflix has yet to launch in Australia, although there is a similar service called Quickflix.
Finally, the Foxtel chief executive alluded to the possibility of a triple play offering with Telstra, combining television, telephony and broadband in a bundle.
The Australian market is interesting for its similarities and differences to the United Kingdom, where Sky is dominant. Foxtel has followed Sky in many ways, and with Foxtel Go and now Foxtel Play, is developing a coordinated multiscreen strategy.
Foxtel also appears to be resolving its relationship to Telstra, its 50% shareholder, with a view to a more concerted approach to the market, which may help to promote the penetration of pay-television in a country that has so far been relatively slow to adopt such services.