Update: Foxtel Play is now available to stream on the Telstra TV streaming device and is receiving new pricing tiers – details below!
It seems like an age since the TV through the internet craze took Australia by storm. While ABC iView and SBS On Demand are practically everywhere these days and the free-to-air networks are struggling to decide exactly what the internet is to them, Foxtel has been plugging along quietly with online video.
Initially, it was simply Foxtel on Xbox, which then made its way to Telstra’s T-Box and Samsung TVs. Foxtel Go arrived later, letting Foxtel subscribers get their entertainment on phones and tablets on the go.
But Foxtel Play is all of those services wrapped up in one. It’s the first comprehensive Pay TV offering delivered through the internet in Australia.
Available as an app for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, Windows PCs, Macs, Samsung, Sony, and LG Smart TVs – Play is the sum of all Foxtel’s previous IPTV parts, offering comprehensive channel selection through a wide variety of devices.
On top of these devices, Foxtel is now also available to stream on the Telstra TV device.
Packages and pricing
Foxtel Play follows the company’s more traditional payment and packaging options. You pay a base rate for the most basic package, with the option to add additional channel packages for a fee.
But unlike the standard Foxtel subscription, Foxtel Play doesn’t have a lock in subscription fee or installation costs. Because all the content is delivered via your internet connection, there’s no need for a technician to connect cable from the street or a satellite dish to your roof.
Foxtel Play is also cheaper than the cable or satellite based subscription, although not by as much as you might expect given there’s no set top box or PVR like the Foxtel iQ included in the price.
Currently, the basic pricing starts at $25 a month, and is offered in four different package configurations. There’s Entertainment, which includes Fox8, Lifestyle, Arena, Lifestyle You, MTV, Comedy, TV Hits, Lifestyle Home, Lifestyle Food, Style, and E!; Drama, which includes BBC UKTV, FX (Why hello there, Fear the Walking Dead), SoHo, Universal Channel, SyFy, and BBC First; Documentaries, which includes National Geographic Channel, A&E, History, Foxtel Arts, Crime Investigation Australia, Discovery Channel, BBC Knowledge, Discovery Turbo, and Nat Geo People; and Kids, which includes Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Cartoon Network, CBeebies, Boomerang, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Discovery Kids, and BabyTV.
You can throw multiple packages together as well, with Foxtel charging $35 for two packages, $45 for three and $50 for all four every month.
In addition, there are two premium packages on offer. Sports, which includes Fox Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (Catch the 2015 US Open this September), ESPN1, ESPN2, EuroSport and Footy Play; and Premium Movies and Drama, which includes the Premiere, Action, Thriller, Comedy, Family, Disney, Masterpiece, Romance and World movie channels.
Premium Movies and Drama pack also comes with the Boxsets channel, which means you can binge watch every episode of shows like The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Ray Donovan, Entourage, The Wire, Deadwood and Australian piracy’s poster show, Game of Thrones.
Each of the premium packages will set you back $20 a month for Premium Movies and Drama, or $25 a month for Sports, meaning a complete Play subscription will cost $100 a month.
With that said, Foxtel Play subscription fees will also receive a huge restructuring by the end of the year as the service is position to replace Presto, with prices starting at $10 per month for either the Lifestyle, Documentary or Kids packages.
Drama and Entertainment packs will go for $15 each or $25 for both. You’ll be able to add the Sports tier for $25 per month, and Movies will set you back an additional $20 per month.
No matter which package you sign up for, you also get access to Foxtel Go, allowing you watch on your tablet or phone, as well as access to the Sky News Live, Sky News Weather, Sky News Business, Channel V, Fox Sports News, CMC, Max, V Hits, EuroSport News, and TVSN channels.
The full Foxtel service’s pricing starts with the base plan costing $25, but scaling up to $120 a month for a complete channel line up. So Foxtel Play is slightly cheaper, and you’ll need a satellite and a 12 month contract to get the full service. On the upside, a full service subscription also gets you a Foxtel iQ3 set top box.
Still, the advantage of not having to sign up for 24 months, as well as the benefit of being able to watch on multiple devices is alluring.
Getting Foxtel Play up and running in your home is a straightforward affair. Simply head to Foxtel’s Play website, select the packages you want, fill in your credit card details, download the app and you’ll be ready to go.
Setting up a second computer is slightly trickier, as Foxtel doesn’t have links to the software conveniently located on the Play website. It’s there – you just have to search around for it.
Meanwhile, connecting to the Xbox One or PS4 app is as simple as downloading it from the Marketplace or PlayStation Store and then logging in once your account has been created.
The first time you open the app on your PC or Mac, you’ll be able to browse the EPG while Sky News plays in the background. When you actually try to select a program, the app will prompt you to login with your account details.
From there, you’ll be given access to all the channels you’ve paid for.
If you’re a parent and want to make sure your kids can only access appropriate material, the parental controls option is pleasantly simple.
First, you need to create a four-digit pin, confirm it, and from there set what rating level you want to be available.
If a user tries to access content above the pre-set rating, they’ll be required to enter the pin.
There are three tabs on the PC/Mac app, including a home button and the two main components to Foxtel Play: Live TV streaming and Anytime video on demand.
The apps for Sony’s PlayStation consoles are more or less the same, but feature an additional two tabs, bringing their selection to five buttons in total: Home, Live TV, Anytime, Search and Settings.
Unfortunately there’s lack of stability when the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 apps use the Anytime option. Both apps crash constantly during movies and TV shows, making any enjoyment of the viewing experience absolutely impossible. During a standard two-hour movie we counted four crashes, which is completely unacceptable, especially given that every crash takes you back to that title’s menu without giving you a resume option. This means you either have to start from the beginning all over again, or clumsily fast forward to get back to the point at which you were so rudely interrupted.
The PlayStation apps’ Home tab offers a patchwork of live TV programs and popular catch-up programs, which kind of looks a bit like the Live Tiles from Windows 8. It’s a two column grid, with rectangular boxes of various sizes.
Weirdly, no matter the size of the window, you need to scroll down a little bit to see everything, but it’s not like there’s a lot of content below the screen to actually view.
Live streaming is exactly what it says on the box. The same content that’s broadcast via Foxtel on its selection of channels is streamed online via the Play service.
The default view shows a list of channels and current programs running down the right hand of the window, while the left shows the currently selected program, and the programs description below it.
There are two alternate views as well – one with the current channel shown as a thumbnail size next to a larger EPG, and a full-screen view that only shows the video playing.
You can limit the number of channels shown in the list by genre. As we were testing the service with the full channel offering, we’re not sure if it will only display the channels you’ve paid for, but there’s no menu option for “My channels” or something similar, so we’re doubtful.