Using Foxtel and Freeview — The Experience and The Features
This is where things start to become a little more interesting. The latest iteration of Foxtel hardware — the iQ3 box — is a thing of beauty. It’s black, it’s smooth, it looks like it should be in a science fiction movie, and it allows you to record hundreds of hours of TV, as well as view catch-up TV and pause and rewind live TV — all accessible through a Bluetooth remote control. The iQ3 is amazing.
But this is where the Freeview standards come in and where, for now at least, it clings onto a tenuous advantage.
Believe it or not, there’s a semi-official body which sets the rules on what can be branded and sold as a Freeview box. That body is called the Freeview Initiative.
To gain certification as part of the Freeview Initiative, your hardware has to be able to receive transmissions in both standard definition and high definition. Sounds great, but unfortunately another Freeview requirement is that all recording-enabled hardware has to be incapable of skipping over adverts on recorded content. Bummer.
But don’t despair just yet — you’re still allowed to watch Free-to-air on devices which don’t conform to the requirements of the Freeview initiative. A range of devices, from Sony’s PS3 to the recent Fetch TV — as well as numerous small-brand personal video recorders — have been able to bring Freeview to your TV for years. It’s your choice — play by the rules and buy a box endorsed by the Freeview initiative, or watch through an unapproved device and skip the ads.
What you miss out on with non-Freeview hardware is the special Freeview electronic program guide (EPG), which in its latest form on hardware certified as “Freeview Plus” will let you browse the program guide, choose what you want to record, view catch-up TV from all of the Free-to-air channels, and a lot more. It’s incredibly user-friendly and very sleek — it’s also something you’ve been able to get, more or less, with Foxtel for many years now.
Foxtel also offers the Foxtel app to all subscribers. This handy little app runs on most mobile devices and lets you take the best that Foxtel has to offer with you, wherever you want to go. Freeview, meanwhile, has their Freeview FV app that lets you browse and stream all the available channels. However, with some networks (like Nine) the network’s own app is required to actually stream live TV or catch-up.