Foxtel today gathered press in their new Foxtel On Oxford space on Sydney’s iconic Oxford St. It’s a recently-renovated cinema that retains some of its original old-school charm, which seems an appropriate place for the launch of a newly-renovated user interface for their IQ boxes, with some new content partnerships on the side.
Foxtel’s CEO Patrick Delaney went to great lengths to talk up Foxtel’s on-demand catalog offering. The company has a lot of content on offer, and is looking to beef up the user experience on their in-market IQ boxes with a fresh new UI and some enhancements to discoverability.
The upgrade is a big project for the company – the biggest they’ve ever undertaken. They’ll be updating the system software on around 1.1 million Foxtel IQ boxes over the next few months. 50,000 boxes are updating today with IQ4 up first and IQ3 following later in the year.
The company knows customers want on-demand streams of content almost as much (possibly more?) than typical broadcast channels (or “linear” channels as they’re now known), and wants you to consider the fact that you get access to the entire on-demand content – for your channels – as a part of your Foxtel subscription.
In a most un-Foxtel move though, the company acknowledges they’re not the final word in content and so they’re bringing other content providers (really, just other streaming apps) along for the ride to keep the IQ box on your TV’s “Input 1”. The first one up is a doozy – it’s Netflix.
You will be able to watch Netflix content (including 4K and HDR) on your Foxtel IQ box, although it’s really just a link from Foxtel’s on-demand UI into the Netflix app. From there, you’re in Netflixland and you’ll need to maintain your own Netflix subscription. A similar integration is said to be coming for SBS On Demand later in the year.
The new IQ UI seems to borrow a little from Foxtel Now, but really it’s just following where the industry is going for streaming video apps – the screens are loaded with rails of scrolling content with series and movies, there’s a detail page for displaying information about what you’re about to watch (including trailers for movies), and you can navigate by actor to discover other series and movies they’ve been in if you like. It also learns what you like in order to provide recommendations for things you might enjoy.
2019 is seeing some unlikely hatchets getting buried especially in the content space – Amazon and Google made nice earlier this year, and now Foxtel and Netflix are circling each other in the early throes of a budding relationship.
What doesn’t seem to have changed though is the chilly relationship that Foxtel Now has with Netflix. While the company’s Android TV Foxtel Now Box can run Android TV apps, it’s still unable to install the Netflix app (which means you still can’t cast Netflix to it) despite the thawing of the Foxtel/Netflix relationship. Foxtel’s reps didn’t seem too interested in revisiting the subject today, preferring to concentrate on the box that can deliver Netflix content.
New Channel Changer
Netflix deals generally don’t happen without buttons getting added to remotes though, and this one’s no exception. Foxtel is releasing a new remote control that’s a little thinner, a little lighter, has a nice shiny piano black finish and has a great big Netflix button on it.
The new remote is packed in with IQ4 boxes from now, and it’s available as a $49 upgrade to existing customers (probably less if you’ve been a subscriber for a while).
The company’s new headline deal is Sports + Drama + Entertainment at $58/mo for 12 months (after which, you’ll pay $78/mo). You’ll get an IQ4 box and 6 months of Netflix included in the deal (installation and equipment fees are waived). You’ll also get access to Foxtel Go (and you can use that account to log in to Foxtel Now).
Foxtel’s packages and deals remain though, and you’ll be able to add on Movies, Entertainment Plus, Docos and Kids channel packs for more $/month.
Disappointingly, the unwelcome “HD upgrade” remains an option if you want high definition content. An extra $10/month for high definition content, also includes the 4K option, but that should be table stakes for TV in 2019.