Telstra's T-Box IPTV set-top box will receive a fresh injection of content next week, with the telco revealing today that significant amounts of content from its Foxtel pay TV joint venture will be available on the T-Box from 27 June.
The planned integration of Foxtel content on the T-Box has been known for some time, but Telstra has waited until today to disclose the actual pricing on the service. Foxtel will initially only be available to T-Box customers who are connected to Telstra through its HFC cable network, although BigPond ADSL customers are to get access to the service "in the months ahead". Downloads over the service won't affect customers' quota. The T-Box is only available to customers using Telstra's broadband services.
Telstra customers with a T-Box will be able to sign for five different packages to use the service.
The "Get Started" package will offer customers 11 channels, including Fox 8, MTV, Nickelodeon, Discovery, the National Geographic Channel, Channel [V] and Lifestyle You, and will go for $19.50 per month. A $10 per month "Sport" package will include Fox Sports Play, ESPN and Fuel TV (four channels), while a $15 per month "Entertainment" package will include 11 streaming channels such as The Comedy Channel, Disney, Sci-Fi and UKTV.
In addition, a $15 per month "Movie Network" package will be available, featuring two streaming channels (Movie One and Movie Two), plus catch-up movies from eight movie channels, including the Starpics, FMC and Movie Greats channels. A $15 per month "Showtime Movies" package will round out the offering, featuring two streaming channels, Foxtel's showcase and Showtime premier options, and catch-up movies from seven channels, including Showtime Comedy, Action and Family.
Customers will need to sign up to the "Get Started" package to get the Foxtel service initially, before being able to bolt on additional packages after that. Unlike the normal Foxtel service, there are no long-term commitments necessary to use Foxtel on the T-Box.
Telstra executive director of Media, JB Rousselot, said that three out of four T-Box customers were families, so the telco had designed the Foxtel service on the set-top box with "value for money, quality home entertainment and flexibility at the top of the list".
The news comes as options for access to online content are rapidly expanding in the Australian marketplace. A number of internet service providers, including major companies such as iiNet and Internode, are now retailing the FetchTV IPTV offering locally, while Foxtel is also available through Microsoft's Xbox 360 platform.
Ovum analyst Tim Renowden said in a statement this morning that the new T-Box Foxtel offering gives Australians a low-cost option for pay TV, and is likely to continue Foxtel's dominance of the local market.
"Foxtel hopes to attract new subscribers, particularly younger customers and renters who are frustrated by long contracts, or those who can't afford a full Foxtel subscription," he said. "Telstra will use the service to encourage its customers to take up a bundle fixed-line services [fixed voice, broadband and subscription TV], and reduce customer churn to aggressively priced competitors.
"There is a risk of existing Foxtel customers switching to a T-Box service to reduce their costs," he added, "but Foxtel will be hoping the more comprehensive channel packages, HD channels and some extra features such as PVR functionality will discourage most existing customers from downgrading."
Renowden also noted that Telstra will need to carefully monitor its content delivery network to balance out customer demand for video services online against network capacity. The delays in the roll-out of the Foxtel service to ADSL customers, the analyst said, were essentially a bid to ensure Telstra's CDN infrastructure has the capacity to deliver a quality service.
"Any network performance issues will be unacceptable for paying customers," Renowden said, "so this launch will provide a crucial test of Telstra's ability to deliver streaming video to a mass audience over its broadband network".