Foxtel–now to be offered in a manner similar to Canal+

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Telstra to offer FOXTEL on T-Box in May 2011 – Media Announcement – About Telstra

My comments

Most of the other countries in the world have at least one Internet service provider who provides IPTV or “triple-play” Internet service offering the TV channels that are expected in a multichannel pay-TV service as part of their TV deals. This is whether as a separate option or integrated in to the TV package.

For example, most of the French “triple-play” packages (Livebox, Freebox, Bbox, Box SFR, etc) offer the Canal+ pay-TV service as a “channel package”. Similarly, the channels offered through US cable-TV services are being offered via AT&T’s “FiOS” IPTV offerings.

Now this trend is coming to Australia with Foxtel, Australia’s main pay-TV brand, offering their TV channels through the Telstra T-Box IPTV setup. This will be offered in the same manner as what is done in France, where the Foxtel packages are sold as a particular add-on rather than the channels being part of packages that Telstra BigPond determines.

Advantages

One main advantage I have often seen regarding delivery of the Foxtel brand via IPTV is that there isn’t the need to run extra coaxial cable to each viewing location or fuss with a satellite dish in order to receive this content.

Some households that have highly-landscaped gardens can benefit because there isn’t the need to dig up the garden to run new cable from the street (in the case of underground-cable setups). As well, people who live in forested areas of the cities

Another advantage with this particular setup is that you only need one set-top box to receive the IPTV services provided through BigPond as well as Foxtel. This is more important to those of use who value the idea of “all the eggs in one basket” but have had to worry about room on the TV cabinet for the T-Box and the Fox Box; or extra inputs on the TV in order to have both these services.

Outstanding Questions

There are still some outstanding questions and issues that need to be raised concerning this service. One is whether a user can set up concurrent recording of shows broadcast on Foxtel, BigPond TV and regular TV at the same time. It also includes handling of sequential recordings, especially where the user requires a certain amount of run-on to be recorded to cater for when channels finish their shows later.

This same problem can extend to capacity issues for T-Box and will eventually require measures like support for “offloading” to approved NAS devices, and the availability of larger-capacity PVRs that work with the BigPond IPTV service. This can also open up issues like true multi-room setups with scalable customer-premises hardware in the form of PVRs that have different capacities and functionalities as well as view-only set-top boxes  Here this could allow for “follow-me” viewing, setting up recordings from other rooms and increased recording capacity and concurrency.

How this could affect the pay-TV landscape

It will also be interesting to see how long this deal will be exclusive to Telstra BigPond. This is especially real as some of the other ISPs in the Australian market like iiNet and TPG are offering IPTV service by “picking off” channels from various content providers. As well, Optus will want to get in to this new game by offering IPTV service and may want to run the Foxtel name in its lineup. Similarly, the Austar name, which covers the Foxtel lineup outside the capital cities will want to appear in any IPTV lineup in its market area.

It could then redetermine the role of the traditional multichannel pay-TV distributor like Foxtel or Austar, who used to rely on their infrastructure and their set-top boxes as being core to their operations, causing them to become a “content wholesaler” or “content franchise”. Here, the customer views these services through hardware provided via their IPTV operators such as “triple-play” broadband providers and chooses the service as an option that is part of their broadband, “triple-play” or IPTV package.

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