Foxtel announces shock Netflix partnership: Everything you need to know
Australia's biggest pay TV provider, Foxtel, has today announced the integration of Netflix and SBS on-demand programming into its catalogue of content.
Is it a case of "if you can't beat them, join them?" Or is it simply the smartest possible next move for Australia's biggest pay TV provider as it looks to stake its claim in a post-Game of Thrones world dominated by streaming giants? We tend to feel it's the latter as Foxtel announces the unthinkable: a partnership with its biggest rival, Netflix.
Today, 24 July 2019, Foxtel hosted a large gathering of press, partners and celebrities at its new HQ in the heart of Sydney to unveil the next big iteration of the pay TV user experience. The theme? Symbiosis.
Over the next four months, Foxtel will update its iQ4 and iQ3 set-top boxes with a new user interface. While the current EPG look and feel for live TV remains functionally unchanged, the on-demand library and how it is presented has had a complete overhaul.
Fans who have been using the company's streaming service, Foxtel Now, or the Foxtel Go app will already have some idea of what to expect. These services acted as guinea pigs, along with the new sports streaming service Kayo Sports, for new ways to showcase content. The new experience on Foxtel iQ takes on these ideas and then iterates again.
Available content is now more easily surfaced, be that via self-discovery where you can look up content through genres or actors or through machine learning, where AI predicts user intent based on previous viewership.
The end result, claims CEO Patrick Delany, is that the 16,000 hours of content you didn't know was available on Foxtel is now more discoverable.
How does the Foxtel Netflix partnership work?
This new user interface has become the catalyst for the Foxtel Netflix partnership. Moving forward, Netflix content will be surfaced within Foxtel's on-demand library organically by the AI. So, when you navigate to on-demand Drama, for example, not only will you see Wentworth, but you will also see Stranger Things. You are then free to select whatever it is you want to watch and off you go. There is an image below demonstrating how that looks.
Effectively, Foxtel becomes a host for Netflix's software. When you click on Netflix content, you actually leave Foxtel and arrive on Netflix to view the content. However, this is done in the backend, so you are unaware of the change in ecosystems. It's a seamless user experience, assuming, of course, you have a Netflix subscription.
Further connecting the two ecosystems, there is a Netflix button on the new remote control (see below), and you can switch in and out of Foxtel or Netflix as you wish by pushing the Netflix or Home buttons. The new remote will come with all Foxtel iQ subscriptions sold moving forward, while existing subscribers can upgrade to the new remote directly through Foxtel for $49.
(Although Finder was told that there may be some wiggle room on that price for long-time customers, so make sure you push your case.)
Finder spoke to Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany after the presentation, who confirmed that the partnership only works in the one direction. Foxtel content won't suddenly surface in Netflix; it's simply Netflix content that surfaces in Foxtel.
It's not all roses. In what we believe is a major mistake, Netflix content will surface in the Foxtel UI regardless of whether you are a Netflix subscriber. This seems counterproductive. If the intent is to improve discoverability of available content, why cloud it with content you can't access? If you are a subscriber to Netflix, this news warrants only a shrug of the shoulder. But for everyone else, it's going to make the pay TV dashboard look decidedly like an ad for another pay TV service.
Surely this will frustrate many users at best, and waste their time at worst. We would highly recommend that Foxtel finds a way to cleave Netflix content from the UI if the user isn't a subscriber. This may mean moving to a user-profile system, which is something Foxtel has avoided to date due to fears that it creates one more login step between getting a user and the content. But it would seem like a necessary evil. Plus it comes up with other benefits, like allowing a user to tailor the UI to meet their individual tastes.
Or you could just make it a toggle in system settings. Show Netflix content = No.
How does the Foxtel SBS partnership work?
Following the exact same model as the Foxtel Netflix partnership, a Foxtel SBS partnership was also announced at today's event. It's effectively the same user experience, with the user interface organically surfacing SBS programming alongside the Foxtel and Netflix content.
Delany confirmed that further conversations are taking place with other potential partners. While stopping short of naming anyone explicitly, when pushed, he did indicate that Foxtel was open to adopting such a model with Disney+ – a blockbuster new streaming service launching through 2020.
A new Foxtel Netflix package deal
To grease the wheels of the new partnership, a compelling new Foxtel deal was also introduced, which is active until 4 September. The deal includes the Entertainment, Sport and Drama packs for a reduced price of $58 per month (down from $78). It also comes with no installation costs, no set-top box fee and a bonus 6-month Netflix subscription.
The only downer is that it will still cost you an additional $10 per month to watch that content in HD or 4K/UHD. That's disappointing, but when we pushed Foxtel on our frustration, we were told to expect another announcement within a month regarding HD. While it wasn't confirmed, this writer certainly got the impression that announcement will be at least a reduction, if not removal, of this archaic cost.
Regardless of the HD sting in the tail, this is still a great deal: possibly the best we've seen from Foxtel. And it isn't restricted to new users, but can also be applied to existing subscribers who are willing to commit to another 12 months of Foxtel iQ. If you'd like to get onboard, you can sign-up here.
What does the Netflix Foxtel deal mean moving forward?
It's telling that at the Foxtel briefing today, there was nobody from Netflix in attendance. While Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany made a point of thanking his colleague at SBS who was in the audience, nobody from Netflix was given any recognition. It's telling because it all but confirms that this is a Foxtel-driven initiative more than a true partnership.
Yet it's a good move. As more and more players come into the market to challenge Foxtel's place as king, the pay TV giant was faced with no longer being thought of as the singular home for all your entertainment needs. By adding Netflix and SBS into their existing ecosystem of content, which currently includes HBO, BBC, ESPN, Nat Geo, Disney and more, the library suddenly looks extraordinary.
And while the Foxtel Netflix partnership doesn't save you on the costs of subscribing to both services individually, it does make for a better user experience. There's no switching between source inputs, or swapping in and out of apps on your Smart TV, or logging in and out of services to surf your available content options. It's all on one place: much better!
This is the model moving forward for Foxtel, make no mistake. Delany told Finder there were no plans to increase investment – beyond what Foxtel is doing currently – on more original content. Instead, the model will be to look for opportunities, like with Netflix, to integrate other services into the Foxtel ecosystem.
It's a smart way to keep Foxtel relevant, but only time will tell whether that remains compelling enough for consumers to stick with pay TV as the dilution of the TV marketplace reaches its peak in 2020.
Can you watch Netflix on Foxtel?
It's one of the questions we are more consistently asked here at Finder, and now we can finally give you the answer you've been looking for. Yes, you can now watch Netflix on Foxtel. That's any and all Netflix content.