When it comes to streaming services, they don’t come any bigger than Netflix. Since its global launch a few years ago, it has become a force to be reckoned with, and few countries have embraced it quite as quickly as Australia. Within weeks of Netflix Australia launching back in 2015, Australia’s internet was struggling to cope as millions joined a sizeable number who’d already been streaming Netflix on the sly from the US.
Netflix Australia v Netflix from Foxtel
If there’s one thing Netflix has always been extremely good at, it’s making their service usable on as many devices as possible. Chances are high that if you’ve got a device that can play video in some way and is connected to the internet, it’ll be able to stream Netflix. That’s been key to their success, making sure that no matter what you’re watching on, Netflix is as close as a big red-and-white button on your remote control.
Foxtel and Netflix
When Netflix arrived in Australia, it entered a market where the dominant force in subscription TV was Foxtel – a very different beast, of course, delivering linear TV channels via cable or satellite. But in recent years, Foxtel has been venturing into streaming as well – something that started in earnest with the launch of their iQ3 set-top box. This box – and its more advanced, faster successor the iQ4 – are more than just for watching and recording pay-TV channels. Internet-connected through and through, they’ve been used by Foxtel to deliver interactive features like Start Over, to implement on-demand streaming of movies and TV shows and even rentals of brand-new titles from an online store, all built into the iQ box.
But for Foxtel’s customers – estimated at around 2.7 million – the arrival of Netflix shook things up a bit. For years, the iQ box had been the de facto TV hub for a considerable amount of people, but if they wanted to use Netflix there was no other option; a separate device was needed. That meant added more expense and complexity, having to switch between devices and navigate with different remote controls.
The New Foxtel Experience
All that changed recently, with Foxtel launching a complete overhaul of the iQ4’s software in what it calls the “New Foxtel Experience”. And it’s very much what it claims to be, bringing streaming very much front and centre across all of Foxtel’s channels and making it easy for users to navigate their way around live TV, recordings, streams and downloads via a completely overhauled, vastly improved user interface.
To go with the new on-screen look for the iQ4 (and later this year, the iQ3 as well) is a brand new remote control featuring an eye-catching new button that nobody expected to see – the famous red and white Netflix button. Yes, Netflix has come to the Foxtel iQ4, and for the first time, it’s possible to seamlessly switch from Foxtel to Netflix and back during your night of TV viewing – all with the one remote control. Netflix’s shows are integrated into the iQ4’s recommendations and highlights screens too, making the world’s most significant streaming service an integral part of Australia’s largest pay-TV service.
So how, then, does Netflix from Foxtel work – and how does it compare to using regular Netflix?
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What does Netflix from Foxtel Deliver?
If you’re like many Foxtel customers who are just discovering Netflix for the first time thanks to its arrival on the iQ4, you’re actually not going to find it as foreign an experience as you might think. As we mentioned, Foxtel has been pushing the iQ4 firmly towards streaming for some time now, and the new software makes on-demand streaming of Foxtel content work very much as Netflix does- it remembers where you’re up to, automatically sends you to the next episode and so on.
The Netflix app on the IQ4, though, is an entirely separate thing from the Foxtel user interface – unlike everything else on the iQ4, Netflix is a totally different app. There’s a reason for that – Netflix places heavy emphasis on looking and feeling the same no matter what device you’re watching it with, so while its apps run on dozens of different devices and platforms, they’re all engineered to look, feel and behave exactly the same. So if you’ve used Netflix before, you’ll feel right at home with the iQ4’s Netflix app.
Subscribing to Netflix from Foxtel
At the moment, Foxtel is offering customers a rather tasty deal – sign up to Foxtel on a 12-month contract, and you’ll get six full months of Netflix completely free of charge. That applies both to new customers and existing ones, with current customers just needing to agree to a new 12-month contract to get their Netflix on for nothing.
Down the track, Foxtel has said they’ll be bundling Netflix subscriptions with Foxtel plans, but that’s a little while away yet; for now, you’ll be provided with a code you can use on the Netflix web site to grant your account the six months’ credit.
Managing your Subscriptions
So it’s essential to realise that your Netflix and Foxtel accounts are entirely separate, at least for now. When you hit the Netflix button to load up the app, you’ll see the familiar Netflix login screen, asking you to enter your email and password to get started or to create a new account. If you’ve already got a Netflix account, you’re free to use it on the iQ4 – there’s no extra cost, and you’ll be able to stream Netflix on the iQ4 just as you would on any other device.
Do you need an Internet Connection?
Oh, and one other thing. To stream Netflix with your iQ4 you will need to have it connected to broadband, either via wi-fi or Ethernet cable. The iQ4 may be a powerhouse at receiving Foxtel TV via the satellite, but when it comes to Netflix (and all other streaming on the iQ4), you’ll need a broadband internet connection with reasonably decent speed and data allowance.
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Netflix Australia v Netflix Foxtel: The Differences
The iQ4 is a powerful piece of hardware, but it’s designed to be the best in its class at its primary job – and that’s tuning in to pay TV channels and recording them. It’s streaming smarts are plenty good as well, though, and there’s enough power under the hood to stream Netflix even at its top quality – in full 4K if you’re subscribed to the Premium plan. You can check what quality you’re streaming in at any time on the iQ4, too – just hit the info button on the remote while you’re playing a Netflix show and you’ll see all the relevant info at the top left of the screen.
We’ve spent a fair bit of time with Netflix on the iQ4 since it launched, and the good news is that the picture quality’s superb, the app runs well and supports all the smart Netflix features like video previews, and the iQ remote control is ideally suited to navigating around the Netflix interface.
High Dynamic Range and 4K TV
There are some limitations, though – but for most people, they won’t be an issue. If you’ve got a high-end TV that supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), you’ll probably be well aware that Netflix makes many of its own shows and movies in that format. But the Netflix app on the iQ4 currently can’t stream in HDR – just straight 4K. The iQ4 hardware does support HDR, so we expect to see this added sometime in the future, but for now, if you want HDR, you’ll need to use another streaming device such as Apple TV, Chromecast or Telstra TV.
Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos
Some Netflix shows and movies feature Dolby Atmos sound, too – a complicated and potentially expensive audio format that most people won’t bother with setting up at home (though some new smart TVs have a version of it built-in). But currently, the iQ4’s Netflix app will only do Dolby Digital 5.1 audio – something that’s not a deal-breaker, really, as even that is more audio than most people have available when they’re watching TV!
Frame Rates and Smooth Streaming
Video output from the iQ4 is fixed at 50 frames per second, too – that’s necessary to keep sports broadcasts looking silky-smooth, and all of Foxtel’s broadcast (and streaming) content runs at that frame rate. But most of Netflix’s shows and movies run at 24 fps, the standard for cinemas. That means the iQ4 has to convert video on the fly to match its own native frame rate. It does a pretty good job of this, and most people will neither notice nor care. But other devices often give you the option of changing the frame rate to match what you’re watching.
Netflix Previews with Foxtel
Aside from the distinct advantage of having your Foxtel (with all your recordings) and your Netflix in the one box controlled by the one remote, Foxtel has tightly integrated Netflix into the iQ4’s overall user interface. Just press the Home button, and you’ll land on a screen showing an overview of what’s new and popular on Foxtel – and, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find a “New on Netflix” section as well (this also appears on the Movies and TV Shows screens). If you like the look of a show, all you need to do is select its thumbnail and the Netflix app loads up, sending you straight to that show or movie’s page ready for you to watch.
That lets you integrate Netflix into your night’s viewing in a far more organic way. Instead of having to load up the app to look separately at what’s streaming on Netflix, you can see the best of it at a glance right there in the Foxtel iQ interface.
The New iQ4 Remote Control
It’s important to note that you don’t need the newly redesigned iQ4 remote control to use Netflix on your existing box. Once you’ve received the software update that adds Netflix, on your old remote, all you need to do is press the “Apps” button. You’ll see a big Netflix logo on screen – just select it, and you’re good to go. Alternatively, you can launch Netflix directly from one of the show or movie thumbnails on the Home screen, as mentioned above.
If you’re keen to get your hands on the new remote with its dedicated Netflix and genre buttons, though, just give Foxtel a call. Those who’ve been Foxtel Customers for eight years or longer get one for free, by the way!
While it had been rumoured for some time that Netflix would come to the Foxtel iQ box, the implementation makes it perfect for those using the iQ4 is the centre of their TV viewing universe. It means that Foxtel, free to air and Netflix streaming content can all be enjoyed on the one device with the one remote, and its integration with the familiar iQ interface (not to mention the handy button on the upgraded remote control) makes it a pleasure to use.