Foxtel Play launches into a new era – more choice, lower price

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Since 2013, Foxtel Play has been the go-to option if you want Foxtel but can’t get it installed via cable or satellite. Instead of having to sign up to a contract, get installers out – you could just get online, sign up for Foxtel Play, choose your channel packages and stream it via broadband.

Foxtel Play has traditionally built itself as a mirror of its hardware-installed parent. You subscribed to the base channel package for a fee, then added optional packs of themed channels to suit your needs. There was just one thing that seemed amiss – a lack of real choice.

Home-installed Foxtel is effectively an expansion of the TV choice you have – giving you channel-surfing goodness beyond anything available on free-to-air. Foxtel Play as a streaming service has been trying to fit the same package model into a world where there’s now Netflix, Stan and other providers to compete with. The solution was offering quality on-demand content for a far lower price than what it cost to stream Foxtel to your smart TV, game console or PC. Foxtel experimented with meeting the competition head-on with Presto – a streaming service that took Foxtel’s exclusive content and applied a Netflix model. It lacked some of the key things that make Foxtel so popular – not least, their unrivalled live sporting coverage.

So now the focus has shifted firmly back to Foxtel Play; Australia’s pioneering live-channel streaming service. It has reinvented itself and the benefits are all in the hands of its customers. Whether you’ve used Foxtel Play before, or have been curious about it but baulked at the cost of entry, this is a pretty big deal.

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What’s changing

The new Foxtel Play brings some major changes to the channel package lineup and pricing. The big drawcard is the price of entry. Depending on what interests you, it’s now only a minimum $10/month to access Foxtel Play. There’s a choice of five packs to form the basis of your service – choose the content that appeals to you and do away with the stuff that doesn’t.

There are packs of Doco, Lifestyle and Kids’ channels in this entry tier for $10/month. That’s a brilliant option if you love those genres but previously paid for channels you rarely watched to get ones you do. The bigger news comes in the form of the two $15/month packs – titled “Drama” and “Pop”. They offer seven premium channels each – the drama pack has BBC First, Box Sets, Universal and more, while “Pop” brings together channels as diverse as SyFy, FX, Comedy Channel and MTV. Common to both of those packs is Showcase, Foxtel’s home of premium original local drama, premium US drama and HBO’s acclaimed stable of shows. And that right there is the really big news.

Yes, for only $15/month, you’ll be able to stream shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld and The Walking Dead as they go to air, or watch them on demand later. It’s a huge leap in terms of value, and with a new HBO deal in place that will allow Foxtel Play to hold onto those shows for on-demand streaming all the time, it’s really turned up the heat on other streaming services in terms of exclusive content.

Meanwhile, if you love your sports or movies, those packs are the same price as before, $25 and $20/month respectively – but with the base price reduced to a mere $10! Hooking up with Foxtel Play for one of them now costs far less.

Things are looking better

From launch until now, Foxtel Play has streamed only in standard definition (SD) – pretty much the picture quality you get from a DVD or normal TV broadcast. Perfectly watchable, sure, but all of that premium first-run drama, sports and movie content is being produced in high definition (HD). All of it benefits hugely from the big gain in clarity and colour, as anyone with an iQ box running HD on regular Foxtel knows all too well.

Foxtel Play will introduce HD streaming in early 2017, and offer a stand-alone device you plug into your TV to stream it with. This is a pretty big thing – you’ll be able to sit back and surf Foxtel Play with your remote in HD, just like you can with normal Foxtel. It’ll be especially great for people who are renting, travelling or can’t get the iQ-based hardware Foxtel install where they live.

But wait, there’s more!

Alongside any of the packs you choose in any given month – and yes, you can change them every month just like before, without any penalty – there’s some extras. As previous subscribers will know, there’s a bunch of Foxtel channels that came with the base channel pack which aren’t listed in the new channel line-up. Fear not – they’re there, 14 channels of them. If you like to stay informed there’s CNN, Sky News and Fox News. For music fans, V Hits, Max, Smooth and CMC – and more. These are included with any pack – even if you just choose one $10 pack.

The three UK football club channels that were added to Foxtel at the start of 2016 – Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea – can be found on the new Foxtel Play as well. While you can have any of them for $5 a month, if you add the sports channel pack you get all three for free as a bonus.

What happens to current subscribers?

If you’re a current Foxtel Play subscriber, you’ll already have chosen a range of channel packs to suit your needs, and Foxtel will have matched your current subscription with the new options as best they can. It will cost you less regardless, but you can tweak your subscription around the new offerings, adding and removing packs to tailor the service better for you.

Why is this big news?

It’s pretty simple to see why this is such a big deal. This is Foxtel rebooting Foxtel Play to make it more affordable at a baseline and improve the value of what’s on offer. Existing customers pay less for a better service – one with more on-demand content than before, the ability to zero in on channels and genres they’re interested in, and change packs or leave entirely at any time.

For new customers, this is a game-changer. Next time there’s a new Game of Thrones season, streaming it legally will only cost $15/month, easy and simple (and with a bunch of extra quality content included). By the time that season arrives you’ll be able to watch it in HD with a low-cost device plugged into a spare HDMI port – as well as all the other options, including phones, tablets, and computers.

I want this!

Of course you do! Access to HBO content for less than HBO itself charges its US customers? Sports streaming at a lower price than ever? Count me in! You can take advantage of the new Foxtel Play pricing right now – no obligations, no contracts and as always, a 14-day free trial to make sure it works for you. And early in 2017, HD Foxtel Play becomes a thing and the dedicated device (we believe it’ll be a Roku-based device similar to Telstra TV) will arrive to make Foxtel Play as easy as Netflix on your TV. Keep an eye out for our review as soon as we get hold of one.

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