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The launch of Galaxy in 1995 was the first pay TV available in Australia. As of 2012, there were only 28% of Australian households subscribed to a pay TV services, with Foxtel dominating the majority of the market. That 28% is one of the lowest for pay TV in the developed world.
Galaxy was terminated in 1998, and Foxtel acquired most of their customer subscriptions. Today, the two leading pay-TV providers in Australia are Foxtel and Fetch. However, as of 2015 a few streaming services, like Netflix and Stan, have emerged, offering a new way to digest your favourite entertainment.
What is Pay TV?
Pay TV is a generic term that refers to subscription television services that are provided using analog, digital cable and satellite. In Australia, analog television has been eliminated since 2012, narrowing the choices in how your Pay TV service is brought into your home. Pay TV should not be confused with Pay-per-View, which is a service that allows you to buy one program or movie at a time. Although the terms premium channels or premium television are sometimes used when describing pay TV.
Since pay TV is a subscription-based service, the companies that provide it offer channels and programming that are unique in order to entice new customers to buy their service. Specialised channels are created to appeal to different groups of people. Since advertising on most of these channels is not the main source of revenue, increasing subscriptions with content and channels is the focus rather than who is watching and when.
Pay TV providers have also gained popularity by producing series shows, like the wildly popular Sex and the City or the more recent Game of Thrones. Since the program is exclusive to the cable network providing it, viewers must become subscribers in order to watch.
How does digital TV work?
Before digital television, Pay TV was obtained using an analog technology. This worked by using a continuously variable signal. Digital broadcasting will convert the content into a stream of binary on/off bits in sequences of 0’s and 1’s. Each bit is storing a small part of the picture, which reassembles when it reaches your television set.
The benefit of digital is that the bits recombine, creating an exact copy of what was broadcast at the source. They do not weaken over distance the way that analog signals did. This results in pictures that are always clear and free of ghosting. Plus, since it requires less bandwidth, cable TV providers are able to broadcast a larger variety of channels.
Subscribing to pay TV in Australia will typically involve signing a contract with one of the providers, paying for a set-top box to carry the service, and the installation of the wiring and box. Some now offer advanced features, like internet TV options, that will require an internet connection to access. The following is a list of the Pay TV providers in Australia along with their base price:
Foxtel's basic Entertainment channel package costs $29 a month. Additional packages, like movies, sport and drama, cost between $10 and $29 extra per month.
Foxtel's traditional paid services also come with a set-top box. The iQ3 and iQ4 act as a hub for all your viewing, recording and pay-per-view needs. The table below highlights the features of each Foxtel iQ box.
Fetch with iiNet
iiNet bundles the Fetch pay TV service for free with select plans, while others let you add it to your service for $5 extra per month. A Fetch subscription gets you a Fetch Mini set-top box, access to catch-up TV apps (9Now, SBS On Demand and more) and 30 movies a month.
If you're looking for the premium channels exclusive to pay TV services, you can purchase Fetch channel packs for $6 each or grab the comprehensive ultimate bundle for $20 per month.
Optus TV by Fetch
Optus TV by Fetch is more or less the same as Fetch with iiNet, but you get the added bonus of a free Optus Sport subscription bundled in. Optus Sport is the go-to channel for all things EPL (English Premier League) and International matches.
Optus' Fetch bundles come with a Fetch Mighty set-top box, one premium channel pack and an Optus Sport subscription.
Telstra TV is Telstra's venture into streaming hardware. The latest model is a 4K-compatible set-top box that lets you watch content from streaming services like Netflix and Stan (provided you have an existing subscription) as well as catch-up TV services like 9Now and 7Plus.
You don't get any premium channels with Telstra TV, but you can purchase new-release TV shows and movies from Telstra TV Box Office on a pay-as-you-go basis.
While they don't traditionally fall under the "pay TV" umbrella, streaming video-on-demand services like Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now have taken Australia by storm with flexibility and exclusive original content.
The following addresses any questions about pay TV services provided in Australia:
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