Foxtel Now Is Exactly The Change Foxtel Needs

Image: Foxtel

Overnight, Foxtel gave its streaming video service a new name. The prices are the same, and for now there are no new gadgets or hardware to tempt you with. But this is just the first step in a huge transformation in the way Foxtel works and how it sits in Australia's media landscape.

Foxtel Now is, at its core, a re-branding of the company's existing products, but it's also so much more — it's the first sign we've seen of a serious commitment to the way Australia watches its TV shows and movies in 2017 and beyond.

Foxtel Now is the new name for Foxtel Play, the IPTV live and streaming video on demand platform you've been able to use on your iPhone, Android, PC, games console and smart TV for a while now. It's the same service that itself got a shake-up late last year. And its prices stay the same — a $10 entry price for a basic kids or lifestyle package, $15 for drama or Pop (with HBO programming like Game of Thrones), and up to $29 if you want live streaming sport.

And Foxtel's traditional subscribers will still access their cable or satellite TV service through an iQ3 box, with the same features and channel choices — although a hardware upgrade and software updates fixes the troubled roll-out that set-top box has had. Fundamentally, the same Foxtel services that already exist will continue to exist without any significant changes.

But Foxtel, to its credit, realises that Australians are watching TV differently now. The last few years of Netflix and Stan show that users that might not have paid for content at all are willing to pay a small amount — $10 or $15 a month — for a slate of quality programming. And Foxtel is quality, it says — it had 98 of last year's 100 top-rated movies in its catalogue, where its competitors had no more than 30.

Foxtel Now is Foxtel's attempt to appeal to the masses in the same way that Netflix and Stan have. It wants to be friendly and approachable, where before it freely admits it's seemed masculine and arrogant. It wants to be the premium provider of entertainment content to Australians, but not just the cashed-up ones that have been subscribing to cable for a decade — a group that represents over half of the 40 per cent of Australians that do subscribe, a massively loyal customer base.

To that end, Foxtel is launching a new IPTV-only streaming box later this year, at around a $99 price point. Competing with the Chromecast Ultra, the Foxtel Now box will have access to whatever Now package a customer signs up to, as well as any compatible Google Play Store app — since it's built on the Android TV program. It'll also have Chromecast functionality and a TV tuner built in, and Foxtel obviously wants it to be a one-stop shop for Foxtel Now customers — and customers of its competitors — to watch streaming TV.

And Foxtel is finally transitioning that streaming TV to HD, catching up with Netflix and Stan. It's only 720p, but it's a big jump from the existing non-HD service. Chromecast support is coming to the Foxtel Now app, and more devices can be registered and streamed to at once (5 devices, 2 simultaneous — from the previous 3 and 1). Crucially, it also has the hook of also offering linear, live TV programming for sports and news, which its competitors can't.

Foxtel's biggest change in its 22 years is only just starting, and it won't be visible for a few days at least — not even to the customers that already subscribe. But it's a change that's been overdue for a long time, and it makes us actively care about Foxtel in a way we haven't for a while.


Comments

    As when Play launched in the first place, and when it had its price cut, the sentiment remains the same: no thanks. Foxtel burned its bridges a long time ago, with exploitative pricing and terrible exclusivity deals. They could give away all their programming for free and I still wouldn't let them in my house.

      Yep. To have a experience similar to what I have with Stan and Netflix, I'd have to drop 4 times the entry cost ($25+$15). Their argument of having "better" quality content is irrelevant as, in the end, it only translates to having a few movies and series that I don't get with the other services. Imagine if Netflix and Stan summed up the imdb score or whatever of their content and the one with higher total gets to cost more? That's not how it is done. The quality of the content is the hook, not the cost qualifier.

      So yeah, a step forward, but still light years behind a proper competitor to the other two services. In fact, by making such a big deal of this somewhat small change, they are shooting themselves in the foot as they'll be unwilling to make anymore changes in the foreseeable future. We'll have to see how much of the market will have to continue being stolen by Stan and Netflix before Foxtel realises its main problem... and with GoT, it's heavy hitter, nearing completion, I can't predict great things for the new service.

    I just want to be able to watch the UFC Fight Night events but I don't want to have to pay Foxtel $40-50 a month just to watch it, I think it's Bullshit I pay for UFC Fight Pass through UFC.tv but all of the Fight Night events are blocked in my region due to Fox. Does anyone have a work around for this? Would a VPN with region change get around this?

      Most likely yes, a VPN will get you through the geo-blocking. Just do so reading on possible candidates first, see if they have decent support, speed and no people complaining they can't get to what you want to see.

      And if you did sign up for Foxtel, you'd be helping them pay UFC not to stream those shows to people in your current situation.

      I've got no interest in funding their exclusivity contracts for shows they didn't originate.

    I'm interested in the pop, drama and movie packs, but its way too expensive for how I'd use it. I'd only watch maybe an episode a day during the week, and on the weekend a movie with a few more episodes. At $45 that's obviously not worth it.

      You'd be better off just buying content from the iTunes Store. Keep an eye out for 15-25% off iTunes cards (happens quite often at the big retailers) and you can get stuff even cheaper.

    720p? Always the way for foxtel, head first towards 10 years ago.

    Yeah no, Its no different to the previous offering. Its frankly a pile of shit. We dont want packages foxtel. Give us sport streaming on its own.

    Yeah, instead of changing the ***hole nature of the company, let's just change the name!

    Instead, how about the government break foxtel up (and parent companies), even if only just to take away their current position of holding sports broadcasts to ransom from the australian public. I will never give foxtel a cent for as long as I live, no matter what they do.

    All I want is sport... does this mean I can pay $29 pm just for sport?

      Nup.

      It's an add-on to the base package.

      And no AFL?

      Pointless!

    Looking at their packages and pricing structure, I kind of doubt Foxtel has realised anything at all about how we want to consume content...

    Worst thing is, the people in charge over at Fuxtel are getting paid a fortune to shovel this shite. What a joke.

    Did this read like page advertising for Foxtel to anyone else, the way the author was spruiking it I'd say he has shares in the company.

      Par for the course these days yeah? They'll probably relabel it as "partner content" in a few days, once everyone has read it. Innocent mistake and all.

      For whatever it was, it at least felt like reasonable arguments against his position were being omitted.

    720p.... I mean come on....

    This doesn't read like they've learned anything at all tbh, it's still a subpar service at a premium price.

    Pass. Sport is too expensive and I dont want that lame 10 dollar package. Just so I can purchase sport.

    So how much we're you guys paid to write this ad, I mean, article?

    720p? Daaaaaamn son! Look at all that p! Why watch Netflix in 4k when I can watch Foxtel in glorious 720p.

    When we look at Foxtel Now's pricing, I think it's important to remember that Foxtel isn't just trying to capture the emerging streaming market—it's trying to hold onto its existing customers.

    $30–50 a month seems ridiculous if, like me, you previously only had free-to-air and now just have a Netflix subscription or Netflix and a VPN or something. But existing Foxtel customers are used to paying for it, and they skew old (http://if.com.au/2014/07/08/article/Challenges-ahead-for-Foxtel/QGJMACFLNA.html), so they're probably slow to try out streaming.

    Foxtel's concern is that those people may eventually move to Netflix as cable TV is outmoded and as they do become exposed (through kids and grandkids, for example). They know that if they have at least some (if not all) of the technological flexibility in their streaming offering, existing customers who're starting to become comfortable with streaming will go for their offering in spite of the price differential.

    The familiar pricing model works for Foxtel internally, and it's also something that existing customers understand. So while they have that segment locked up, they can try to use headline content like Game of Thrones to go after non-existing customers. It's arguable whether that'll work (it probably won't for me), but to them it's important that at least they're not going backwards.

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