I welcome Foxtel’s late attempts to get with the times. Foxtel Go is one half of its push to recover the ground lost to piracy, combining with exclusive HBO programming within 24 hours of the US.
Launching earlier this week, Foxtel Go is an iPad app that allows existing subscribers to watch 21 live channels, which are complemented by catch-up programming on additional stations. As with the current PC service, you are only able to access channels that you pay for at home — which means there are no iPad only accounts. You must have Foxtel at home to use Foxtel Go.
The app looks amazing, with a modern Windows 8-esque layout and pretty pictures in the right places. More importantly, it’s fairly easy to navigate the twenty live-to-air channels (there are also 4 “Fox Sports Plus” channels listed that count as the 21st channel, but at time of publishing, they’ve yet to broadcast anything. They will be used for Barclay’s Premier League on the weekend, but we can hardly count it as a live channel right now).
Sky News can be watched immediately, as is the case with Foxtel for Xbox 360, but you won’t be able to access anything else without a Foxtel Online log-in. If you’ve never used Foxtel’s online service, you’ll need your account number and an email not currently registered with Foxtel handy. While it means you need Foxtel at home, Foxtel Go allows up to two iPads to be registered per home account, with one change permitted each month. If your parents or a friend have Foxtel, you could easily use their details if they have no need for two registered iPads.
Once logged in, you’ll only be able to access channels you already pay for. Those that aren’t in your package will be greyed out, and your lack of access is indicated by a key.
I’m not sure how Foxtel assembled the 20-strong list of live TV channels, but they’ve cast a wide net with a variety of interests. National Geographic, Discovery, Nat Geo Adventure and A&E; are the only ones that really appeal to me — or rather would, if I could access A&E.;
Other live broadcasts include Nat Geo Wild, The Weather Channel, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Cbeebies, Boomerang, V, V Hits, Max, Sports Play, Eurosport, Fox Sports News, Sky News, Sky News Business and Lifestyle.
The Catch Up line-up is stronger, which a handful of shows from UKTV, Arena, Fox8, SoHo, Bio, the complete Lifestyle family, Style, E!, FX, Studio, CNN, History, BBC Knowledge, Crime & Investigation and Baby TV, as well most of the live channels. Programmes can be sorted by genre, channel or alphabetically.
Catch up programming is fairly limited, but diverse enough for a new application. Fox 8 has six episodes of Rove LA, as well as two of Revolution and Vampire Diaries and a selection of vintage WWE. There are two episodes of Doctor Who and five of EastEnders on UKTV, but due to my subscription, I cannot access them.
The app only launched three days ago, and new catch-up content is already coming through, so expect it to be updated fairly regularly.
Live TV streams comfortably at 720P, but only if your internet connection can handle it. Upon changing channel, it will automatically default to the lowest, blurry (unwatchable) quality seen on Xbox 360, but will adjust to the higher quality within a number of seconds.
The app can also be used to view the full Foxtel TV Guide, or to remotely set your IQ unit at home.
The only issues of note I’ve encountered over the past two days is an error that stops all videos playing and the video disappearing during some Catch Up programmes, as the audio continues. While annoying, both of these were resolved by closing the application and relaunching it.
It’s a great start, and something I hope to see Foxtel expand in the future. Internet rights play a role, but I would love to see more of the Catch Up channels included as Live Streams, as the selection appears to be trying to appeal to a wide audience. As a result, I doubt the average user will be interested in more than four or five of the 20 channels currently available. Simply, in needs more Live channels taken from the Get Started package which all Foxtel subscribers have access to.
A standalone iPad subscription would also be nice, but I suspect that could be in future plans. Foxtel would at the very least want to implement a pricing structure similar to Foxel on Xbox 360, which would require considerably more channels. On that note, as an existing subscriber, I should be able to elect an Xbox 360 as one of my two registered accounts at no extra charge.
It seems like a massive oversight that I can add two iPads as online devices, but not an Xbox 360. Sure, the latter boasts a more comprehensive service, but that took 12 months to be established and is surely what Foxtel Go will eventually strive to offer. At present, I have no incentive not to “giveaway” my second device to a friend without Foxtel. If I could also add an Xbox 360, and an iPad, as free registered devices, there would be no talk of such tomfoolery.
Foxtel Go is a fantastic app, and a sign that Foxtel is slowly doing away with its ‘90s broadcast model (maybe). The layout is stunning, and it generally works quite well, offering a wealth of content. There’s still work to be done, and it needs more live channels from the Get Started package, but for a first up effort and at no extra charge, existing subscribers are finally getting a decent online service at no extra charge.