Is Foxtel worth it?


WhistleOut
04 November 2014

With a bevy of new streaming Movie and TV services soon to arrive in Australia, and Foxtel recently revamping its offer, there has never been a better time to take a close look at the country’s longest running Pay and IPTV service and ask the question on everyone’s mind — even those who are current subscribers: is paying for Foxtel worth it?

When Foxtel launched back in 1995 it was pretty much the only game in town for subscription TV services, and so answering the question of whether nor not it was worth its monthly subscription fee was simpler to answer. Today, and going forward, competition for your eyeballs is heating up (and likely your eyeballs too, if you plan on keeping up).

In response, Foxtel now offers its service under a number of different guises. It is a broadcast TV service, a catch-up on-demand TV service. It has movie rentals, apps for streaming to mobile devices, and Presto! — its on-demand movie-only streaming app. Are you a little confused?

Each iteration of the Foxtel service competes with other services, like Apple's iTunes and Freeview TV, so assessing its value for you will depend on what you like to watch and, perhaps more importantly, how much TV you want to watch.

Basic pricing information

To start with, let’s take a look at what Foxtel costs. As we mentioned above, there are a number of products to consider, some of which are bundled into the core Foxtel service, and other which attract an additional, or entirely separate, fee.

Channel Pack Monthly Cost Number of channels in pack
Entertainment (basic pack) $25 45 - incl. Fox8, Lifestyle, Discovery and MTV
Sport $25 9 - incl. Foxsports and ESPN
Movies $20 9 - separated by genre
Drama $20 6 - incl. Showcase and FX
Entertainment Plus $10 9 - incl. Comedy, SyFy and Lifestyle Food
Docos $10 10 - incl. Crime, History and Nat. Geo.
Kids $10 6 - incl. Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon
HD Pack $10

Minimum term is 12-months and new customers will need to pay $150 for setup and installation.

Foxtel as TV and PVR

Subscribing to the core Foxtel service gives you two important things. Most obviously, you get access to at least 43 unique channels in the basic pack, and up to 92 channels if you choose all channel packs. You can also access all of the free-to-air channels through the service.

You also get one of the best personal video recorders (PVRs) available in the Foxtel IQHD unit. The IQ box can record up to 90 hours of SD quality TV (or 30 hours in HD) and it includes four TV tuners, meaning you can be recording two programs and watching a third at the same time, with the ability to pause and rewind the live broadcast.

Other cool features of IQ include the ability to Series Link a favourite show and automatically record new episodes as they are aired, and to set up a new record by pressing the ‘green button’ while an advertisement for the show is playing. Foxtel Go is an app for tablets, like iPads, which allows you to stream your subscription when you’re not at home to watch your shows.

So, is it worth it?

The minimum you will pay for Foxtel is $450 for 12-months of the basic package, an IQHD box and setup costs. Even just for the ability to record your favourite shows with the intuition and flexibility offered by Foxtel's IQ, this is definitely worth it.

Do you need to pay $120 a month for all 92 channels across all seven packs? That is entirely up to you. I’ve had access to all channels for a while now, and at a quick count, my family watches 13 channels regularly, with two entire channel packs regularly going unused. The Sport pack, one of the most expensive, is only watched for a few months of the year.

If you are confident about the things types of shows you like to watch, there is big money to save by only choosing the packs which suit your viewing.

How about Fetch TV?

The service most similar to Foxtel in Australia is Fetch TV, a premium TV service offered as a bundle by Home Broadband providers Optus, iiNet, Dodo and others.

With 35 channels, Fetch TV is very much the little brother here, but it is also much cheaper. Most participating ISPs offer basic Fetch plus the add-on TV channels pack for about $30 per month. You get channels like MTV, ESPN, TVHits, National Geographic, SyFy and BBC News; a taster of the content available across the Foxtel channel range.

Importantly, you also get a PVR with time-shifting capabilities and access to a decent movie rental service. Fetch customers also access 'Movie Box' with 30 on-demand movies to watch as part of the core pack. Everyday a movie is added and another is deleted, so the selection is constantly changing.

Our Pay TV head-to-head paints a pretty clear picture of the differences between the two service, but for in-depth info about which channels are included in the Fetch Entertainment Pack, head over to Fetch TV.

Foxtel for movies and TV (aka Foxtel vs iTunes and Netflix)

If you are a true film buff or TV aficionado, the question you are probably trying to answer is whether Foxtel is better than iTunes, Quickflix or Netflix for giving you unfettered access to the big budget TV series and movies you want to watch.

For TV shows, there is no better service available, including the likes of Netflix. With the introduction of the new ‘Box Sets’ channel, Foxtel subscribers can now catch up on the complete back catalogues of a number of the biggest shows in recent history, including Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, True Blood and Sex in the City. This is in addition to the Showcase and FX channels, hosts of shows like The Walking Dead, House of Cards and many more.

Currently, Quickflix customers can also access many of the same titles on-demand, but the Quickflix service is split into ‘Subscription’ titles and ‘Premium’ titles; the former is available to subscription customers ($9.99 per month) and the latter are available as a digital purchased season by season, or episode by episode. As we scan through these titles, it comes as no surprise that the most popular titles are available for purchase only.

Apple’s iTunes is another vast repository of content, both TV and movies, but renting and streaming are not currently an option. iTunes customers purchase digital copies of all content, with prices varying depending on what you want to buy.

Despite access to Netflix being illegal in Australia now, it is estimated that over 200,000 households have an active subscription gained by circumventing geo-blocking mechanisms. Most alluring about Netflix is its low fee (AU$9.40 per month at today’s exchange rate). In return, you gain access to thousands of movies and TV episodes, but you might be surprised at the age of the ‘new to Netflix’ releases.

Essentially, the Netflix catalogue is constantly growing and shrinking as its license to specific content is renewed or expires. It is an awesome service for movie buffs looking for hidden gems, but it suffers without titles you can find first on iTunes or in your local DVD rental store.

Netflix is looking to counter this by producing its own content, and shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are worth checking out, but if you're looking for Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or True Detective, you might be waiting a while to see the latest episodes.

So, is it worth it?

At the time of writing, Foxtel is both the best and most expensive subscription based service for movies and TVs in Australia. If you’re happy to buy your shows, then iTunes has a better range of newer content, but you will spend a fortune. If you’re happy to go with a digital pot-luck approach to content, both Quickflix and Netflix could be for you.

This might seem extravagant, but our recommendation for serious TV lovers is to subscribe both to Foxtel and one of the pure streaming services. Use Foxtel for up-to-date content and Netflix/Quickflix for nostalgic movie marathons.

Foxtel for Sport

With 5 Foxsports channels, 2 ESPNs, Fox Footy and Euro Sport; Foxtel has as much sports coverage as any sports fanatic could ever want. Whether you want to watch football (take your pick of the codes) motor sports, tennis, cricket or Premier League Darts, Foxtel is your one-stop-shop.

The Sports channel pack is also the most expensive, costing $25 on top of a basic subscription. This means that 12-months of sports coverage will set you back $750, once you factor in the minimum Foxtel fee for a year and add in $300 just Sport (paid monthly over 12-months, of course).

So, is it worth it?

Casual teamsters might find the asking price a bit steep, but not the real fans. When you consider that the alternatives are the smattering of matches on free-to-air TV, or individual subscriptions to online coverage of specific leagues (the English Premier League football, for example) -- there is no easier way to watch sport in Australia.

A Word About Streaming

So far we’ve compared Foxtel to Quickflix, iTunes and Netflix, but there is a key difference to be aware of between Foxtel and the rest. Foxtel is delivered either by cable or by satellite and doesn’t require an internet connection for basic use. ‘Anytime’ on-demand service and the Foxtel Go app do require internet and are extremely data heavy.

iTunes, Netflix and Quickflix all rely on a fast broadband connections and enough data on your account each month to download the files. We haven’t included this price in any of the comparisons, but a typical ADSL2+ connection in Australia will cost about $50 per month or more, all in.

As Foxtel is owned part owned by Telstra, all Bigpond broadband customers can download Foxtel content, like catch-up TV and movie rentals, without the data being counted against their monthly data allowance.

All in all, if your favourite mode of relaxation is curling up on the couch with a movie, or binging on a series of TV shows over the weekend, then Foxtel should be the top of your list of services. We’d recommend you pay close attention to which channels are in what packs and save money where you can, but you’re kidding yourself if you think there is an easier or better (legal) avenue for watching premium content in Australia right now.

That said, pay attention to the date in which this article was last updated. Big new streaming services are on the horizon from companies like TPG and the TV networks 7, 9 and 10. Foxtel has a massive lead on future competition, you'd think, but the landscape is ever changing.


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