Wednesday, 04 July 2012 16:48

Foxtel goes LIVE on selected Samsung Smart TVs


IPTV is rocketing in Australia with the news that Foxtel on Xbox 360 has gone national in previously unavailable Austar areas, and has now made the leap to Samsung’s Smart TV, obviating the need for a Foxtel IQ/IQ2 box – unless you want the full suite of channels along with the ability to pause and rewind live TV.

If you have a recent, “compatible” Samsung Smart TV, you can now add Foxtel IPTV streaming to the list of smart capabilities your Smart TV is capable of.

It means one less box to worry about, especially if you don’t want extra boxes under your TV – no need to fiddle with Telstra T-Boxes or Microsoft Xbox 360s if you don’t want to, even though those two boxes can also deliver Foxtel IPTV channel streaming.

As with the Internet TV capabilities of select Sony Bravia TVs and those from big names like Panasonic and LG, Samsung’s Smart TV offers a range of IPTV channels to watch, broadening ever further the channels you can now watch, up from the five main channels post-aggregation in the 1990s to dozens or even hundreds today, depending on whether you’re just watching Freeview, or have Freeview combined with IPTV channels, a Foxtel IQ/IQ2, satellite TV or streaming sites with hundreds of channels like WWITV (WorldWide Internet TV) watched through a computer plugged into your TV.

Of course, there are still benefits watching Foxtel channels through Foxtel’s own IQ or IQ2 set-top boxes – these allow you to pause, rewind and record live Foxtel channels, as well as pause and rewind “On Demand” and “Catch Up TV” shows – if not record them too.

Watching Foxtel on Xbox 360 only lets you pause and rewind “On Demand” and “Catch Up TV”, but not record, and you can’t pause, rewind or record live Foxtel channels either.

So far, I’ve only been able to confirm that the Foxtel on Telstra T-Box can’t pause, rewind or record live Foxtel channels, but can pause and rewind “On Demand” channels – with Catch Up channels an answer I’m still waiting for.

T-Box can pause, rewind and record free-to-air TV and lets you rent movies, among other features, while the Xbox 360 lets you control Foxtel channels by Kinect, as well as giving you access to other IPTV channels too, meaning there are benefits to both having a set-top box/games console for IPTV, as well as benefits to not having extra boxes to deal with.

Thus, Samsung’s Smart TVs – or at least those 2011 and 2012 models which are compatible (and which might require a firmware update first) can certainly let you watch 30+ channels of Foxtel TV, but as of publication I’m still waiting to find out whether there’s any sort of pausing or rewinding (let alone recording) even if only on Catch Up or On Demand.

Thus, the need for an additional set-top box may well be obviated for some, but if pausing, rewinding and recording Foxtel channels including Live TV is important to you, then a Foxtel IQ or IQ2 will be your only choice.

Or, if you want to control your TV experience by Kinect, an Xbox 360 is your only choice, although some Samsung Smart TVs do offer the ability to change channels using motion control, it’s doubtful the experience will be anywhere near as fluid and smooth as with Kinect.

Indeed, I helped a friend set up a massively huge Samsung Smart TV with 3D capabilities, and although it had “motion control” for changing channels and volume, the TV told us the room lighting wasn’t bright enough for the motion control to work.

Still, some people are not in Foxtel cable areas, or don’t want to get a Foxtel satellite dish… or simply don’t care about rewinding, pausing or recording, and will simply be happy that their shiny new Samsung Smart TV finally has an additional set of cool new IPTV Foxtel channels to subscribe to.

And that’s an important point – obviously Foxtel on Internet TV isn’t free – but just as with Foxtel on T-Box and Xbox 360, there’s no multi-year contract – it’s a month-by-month proposition.

Prices for the “standard” Foxtel on Internet TV package start at AUD $19.50 per month, with sport channels an additional $10 per month, Showtime channels an extra $15 per month, even more “Entertainment” channels for another $15 per month, and a special $50 once-off, all-inclusive package for eight London 2012 Olympics channels – including a one-off $10 “pre-registration” fee, with more information available at Foxtel here.

Foxtel’s product director, Jim Rudder, explained how the new Samsung Smart TV capabilities are “part of a plan to broaden our distribution through other platforms and is an opportunity to reach even more people”.

Mr Rudder adds that “As the quality of the TV experience over broadband has improved, people have become more willing to consume content in different ways and as such it presents a great opportunity to distribute our programs that wasn’t previously there”, while speaking of an “explosion of connected devices” and promising “other new and exciting announcements along these lines in the months to come” - presumably for Sony Bravia, LG, Panasonic and other brands of TV too, if not a proper widescreen streaming service for iPads as well (despite the 4:3, sides-cut-off Mobile Foxtel service already avaialble from Telstra)?

Samsung Australia’s Evan Manolis spoke of Samsung’s desire to give consumers “easy access to a wide range of content all from the comfort of the lounge room” and of how Samsung’s Smart TV apps “are accessed over half a million times each month showing the increasing demand from Australian consumers”, while also being delighted to offer Foxtel on Internet TV via Samsung’s compatible Smart TVs.

If you needed any more proof that the age of IPTV is upon us, this is it... and it's only going to get better!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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