No lock-in contract; iOS apps (no AirPlay support)
Built around packages; some content missing
From $25 per month
Cheaper Foxtel over the internet – with no home subscription or lock-in contract – sounds like a dream come true, but make sure you read the fine print.
Australian pay TV has always been expensive and a few years ago you wouldn’t have believed that Foxtel would ever come to the party with an online service like Foxtel Play. Faced with a growing number of online rivals and the rise of the National Broadband Network, the pay TV giant has decided to move with the times rather than stick its head in the sand.
You can watch Foxtel Play via the Foxtel Go app for iPhone, iPad and some Samsung Android devices. Alternatively, you can watch in a browser on Mac or Windows, or access Foxtel Play on your television via the PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and some Samsung and LG smart TVs and Blu-ray players. You can link up to three devices to your account and watch on two simultaneously. Telstra T-Box owners can also subscribe to some Foxtel channels, although it’s a separate service to Foxtel Play.
The Foxtel Go iOS app is very slick, with access to live channels and Catch Up TV. You can’t record shows – that requires a home subscription and Foxtel IQ box – but you can pause and rewind live broadcasts on computers, iGadgets and some home entertainment gear.
Watching on an iPad, each channel has a 30-minute buffer, so if you miss the start of a show you can jump backwards. There’s no built-in AirPlay support for streaming to an Apple TV and Foxtel even disables screen mirroring, which is frustrating when you’re a paying customer.
While Foxtel Play offers a slick user experience, unfortunately it’s still built on the traditional pay TV package model – forcing you to pay for channels you don’t want in order to watch the few that you do.
There are four basic packages – Entertainment, Drama, Documentaries and Kids – which cost $25 each, but get cheaper if you subscribe to more than one. You need to subscribe to at least one of these basic packages before you can subscribe to either of the two $25 Premium packages – Sports and Premium Movies and Drama. This means you’re up for at least $50 per month if you want to watch live AFL matches or Game of Thrones, at which point surely you’d have to consider paying the bit extra to get a full home Foxtel service.
Keep in mind you’re also chewing through your monthly download allowance and you should allow around 1.3 gigabytes per hour of video, although you can scale it back to 470 megabytes per hour on the Low quality setting. This data doesn’t count towards your monthly download limit if you’re using Telstra BigPond at home, although it’s still metered if you’re using Telstra mobile broadband.
Before you jump in, be warned also that each Foxtel Play package is missing a few channels compared to the equivalent home Foxtel package, so you’ll need to study the list carefully to ensure you’re getting what you want. Several live AFL matches are missing from Foxtel Play each week, for no other reason than the fact you’re watching via the internet. You can’t watch any live AFL matches on a Mac or PC.
Foxtel Play is a big step in the right direction and the apps are very slick, but it’s still expensive and there are frustrating gaps in the line-up. It’s a convenient way to watch Foxtel, but not necessarily a cheap one. Study the fine print carefully and weigh it up against competitors like Fetch TV before taking the plunge.