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Foxtel is, believe it or not, more than 20 years old. The grandparent of Australian pay TV began back in 1995 offering 20 channels via the Telstra coaxial network.
But these days, the home entertainment landscape is a completely different beast. With so many options for streaming video on demand, you might wonder whether an "old school" service like Foxtel still cuts the proverbial mustard.
Of course, the answer to any question about whether Foxtel is worth the cost is a very personal one: it certainly is if you decide that it is. But let's at least pick apart what Foxtel actually offers.
The broadcast channels are Foxtel's bread and butter. These include the standard Australian free-to-air channels like Seven and Nine along with a wide range of specialty movie and entertainment channels like FOX8, BBC First and Showcase. Sports fans also have a whole lot to like with ESPN, FOX SPORTS and beIN Sports channels.
For those who prefer to watch telly at their own pace, Foxtel's selection of on-demand TV shows and movies provides thousands of hours of entertainment accessible any time with just a click of a button. Over 1,300 movies are available on demand with Foxtel, plus new titles are added each and every month. If that's not enough for you, Foxtel also operates a digital store for renting new release movies and pay-per-view events from Main Event.
The Foxtel iQ4 box is a combined cable signal receiver and personal video recorder, or PVR. The iQ4 has a terabyte (1,000GB) of storage and can record three different channels while you watch a fourth if that's what you really need.
Finally, the Foxtel app lets you watch live TV and on demand content via a tablet or smartphone. It's an add-on included with any Foxtel subscription.
That's what Foxtel offers, but what you get depends on what package you've signed up for. Foxtel has broken its service into a modular system that allows you to stack on additional channel packages as you need them.
The basic package from Foxtel is the Entertainment package that will cost you $29 per month and has over 40 different channels from basic sports and news through to music and entertainment channels such as MTV, Fox 8, Arena and more.
This normally comes with a $125 iQ4 fee and a $100 connection fee, but you'll often see specials that waive these additional costs, so it can pay to time your take-up of a Foxtel subscription if you're keen.
This basic package is indeed the absolute bare bones. You don't even get HD channels. You'll need to add $10 a month for the HD "makeover".
At the other end of the scale, you can go large and grab what Foxtel calls the Platinum HD pack. This includes every channel pack along with HD channels where available. It doesn't come cheap, though, clocking in at $139 a month. Like Foxtel's other channel packs, you'll often see various discounts and promotions that can save you from paying full price.
There's obviously a huge difference between the basic Foxtel Entertainment package and the comprehensive Platinum HD package, plus you always have the option to customise your own entertainment package by combining channel packs as you see fit. The sheer number of possible configurations can be quite daunting, especially if you're new to Foxtel and aren't sure which channels you're actually going to watch.
Thankfully, Foxtel does offer a 10-day free trial to its Foxtel Now service for all new customers, and this includes access to every single Foxtel channel so you can get a feel for which ones are worth the money.
To compete with the likes of Netflix and Stan, Foxtel operates an Internet TV version of its service called Foxtel Now. Instead of using a traditional cable connection, Foxtel Now is delivered over a standard Internet connection either to a dedicated device like Telstra TV or the Foxtel Now Box or even to select devices like the PlayStation 4 or some smart TVs.
Going the Foxtel Now route means missing out on the hardware features of the iQ4 box, plus it requires both a fast Internet connection and a hefty data cap since everything you watch will use up some of your home broadband data allowance. On the other hand, being able to stream Foxtel Now on a wide variety of devices frees you from the couch and lets you watch your favourite shows on-the-go.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that Foxtel Now features different channel packages from traditional Foxtel. Instead of the basic Entertainment package, channels are split out into smaller offerings such as the Pop pack, the Drama pack, the Lifestyle pack and the Kids pack. These range from $10 a month up to $29 a month for the Sports pack, and if you want all seven packs you'll be looking at $104 a month (along with a one-off $99 fee if you want the Foxtel Now Box as well).
Unlike a traditional Foxtel subscription, Foxtel Now doesn't require you to commit to a long-term contract. The service operates on a month-to-month basis, with the option to change your channel packs or cancel at anytime without penalty.
For many people, Foxtel's greatest strength is its sports offerings. For a long time, many sporting events and disciplines were exclusive to Foxtel here in Australia, making it the only option for a lot of Aussies wanting to watch their favourite sports live.
Now, however, there's Kayo Sports, a spin-off of Foxtel dedicated purely to sports coverage. For many sports fans, Kayo is a cheaper and easier way to keep up with the latest live and on-demand content.
On the TV front, meanwhile, Foxtel is still the leading source for some of America's most popular shows thanks to its partnership with HBO. For fans of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Supergirl and many other big-name US series, Foxtel remains the only way to catch the latest episodes at roughly the same time they release in America.
Ultimately, the question of whether Foxtel is worth it comes down to your particular tastes in entertainment. If you're heavily invested in sports or American TV, the exclusivity of certain shows or events might be enough to justify Foxtel's hefty price tag. Alternatively, the cheaper fees of Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video might seem like a better deal for the amount of TV you watch, in which case you'd be better served taking Foxtel Now's free-trial offer for a spin first before plunking down your hard-earned cash.
Try Kayo Sports' on-demand live streaming service for 14 days free.
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