Fetch TV, www.fetchtv.com.au
iOS app; recording streaming
No live FTA streaming; limited pay TV channels
$299 or $10 per month, plus subscription fees
A personal video recorder for the gadget age, Fetch TV lets you stream free-to-air television and pay TV to your iGadgets – with a few catches.
Fetch TV doesn’t sell direct to the public; instead it’s available through a handful of internet service providers: iiNet, Internode, Optus, Westnet, Adam Internet and TransACT. You can buy the Fetch TV box outright or rent it, but either way you’ll also pay a few dollars per month in subscription fees.
In return for your money, you get a PVR with online access to the hand-curated Fetch TV Electronic Program Guide, which is more reliable than the EPG details embedded in the broadcast signal. You can create Season Passes to automatically record your favourite shows each week, with the recorder actually checking the schedule for changes rather than blindly recording the same timeslot.
The Fetch TV box features twin high-definition tuners, letting you record two channels at once – including the IPTV subscription channels – while watching a third. As for internet features, you can hire new release movies and watch Catch-Up TV from the ABC and SBS.
On top of this, you can pay extra for entertainment and sports pay TV packages, which are cheaper than Foxtel, but offer fewer channels in return. Fetch TV recommends broadband speeds of 3.5 Mbps to support standard-definition channels, or 7.5 Mbps for high-definition.
If that’s not enough entertainment, the Fetch TV box also features a DLNA client with broad format support, letting you stream video from your computer or Network Attached Storage drive.
As a free-to-air PVR, the Fetch TV’s only major shortcoming is the inability to skip through the ads in 30-second increments. You can still fast-forward the ads and a future firmware update will add an auto-jumpback of several seconds when you press play, to allow for slow reflexes.
At this point, Fetch TV is already head and shoulders above much of the competition. The icing on the cake is a collection of slick iPhone, iPad and Android apps, which help you make the most of your PVR.
For starters, you can use the Fetch TV app as a remote control, letting you change the channel, adjust the volume, flick through the program guide and schedule recordings even when you’re away from home. The ability to mute or pause the television from the next room is likely to appeal to parents.
More than this, you can stream free-to-air digital TV recordings – but not live broadcasts – to your handheld gadget, making it easy to watch your favourite shows while lounging on the couch, lying in bed or sitting anywhere else within reach of your home Wi-Fi network. Alternatively, you can stream the live pay TV channels, over Wi-Fi or mobile broadband, but you can’t stream pay TV recordings from the box.
The inability to stream some content is a frustrating schism inflicted by Australian copyright law and rights deals. Unfortunately, Optus customers are denied the ability to even stream recordings of live television, thanks to the ISP’s legal stoush with Telstra and the AFL over streaming live football. Competing PVR makers like Humax and Strong offer live streaming features, although the results are hit and miss.
Fetch TV enforces a limit of three registered devices for streaming pay TV content, and you can watch on two devices at once. This limit doesn’t apply to streaming recorded television and the Fetch TV box happily supports three simultaneous streams, without interrupting anyone watching the television.
The streaming restrictions are frustrating and the pay TV packages are limited compared to Foxtel, but the Fetch TV box still has a lot to offer – assuming it’s available from your ISP. If you’re looking for an easy way to stream recordings around your home, Fetch TV should be on your shortlist.