Four things Foxtel really needs to implement to fight off its competition

Simon DellYesterday Foxtel announced some significant changes to its pricing and some services. Here Simon Dell looks at what the pay-TV provider needs to do to really combat the upcoming arrival of video streaming services.

So I’ve spent the last few years having a crack at Foxtel whenever I could. I thought the service was expensive, restrictive and, in TV terms, antiquated. Sure, not as antiquated as the main channels and their: YOU WILL WATCH THIS WHEN WE WANT YOU TO WATCH THIS approach but still not dancing on the cutting edge of TV broadcasting.

And then I went and signed up for Foxtel. And not just any Foxtel. The super dooper premium $99 a month package. Even though the basic package has recently been slashed, I thought I’d get all the bells and whistles.

It must have been a moment of madness. Or it might have been the fact that my wife was running out of things to watch on YouTube. Or maybe it was curiosity. Either way, we took the plunge, signed up for six months and thought we’d see how it compares to the $15-odd-a-month we pay for Netflix and a VPN spend elsewhere.

First things first: the positives:

The sign-up and the install process were all brilliant. Efficient as any other service delivery I’ve ever used. Two guys came out when they were supposed to, moved some cables, took their shoes off without asking and knocked it over in 30 minutes.

Second positive – there’s a lot of stuff on Foxtel. A lot of stuff. Sure, there’s Toddlers and Tiaras, but there’s also a bag load of great drama, reality and comedy. Get the IQ recording thing right and you’ll never, ever be short of TV to watch.

Third (future) semi-positive – the ‘BoxSets’ channel announced yesterday. Sure we can all say ‘about time’, but at least Foxtel are acknowledging the changing viewing patterns of the average Australian family and the growth of bingeing on TV. There’s still going to be some ‘wait and see’ on it – will it provide the content that we actually want, or will they still hold back the premium content for the normal schedule? And will the BoxSets work through the Foxtel app?

Even then there’s an issue with premium drama where you can only jump into many series halfway through the second or third seasons, forcing you to go elsewhere to find the rest of the episodes.

And that’s about where it all ends. Sadly, the things that let Foxtel down are the things that could spell out its impending doom when Netflix rolls into Australia. Let’s hope CEO Richard Fruedenstein is listening.

HD Availability

So if you want to see your shows in HD, you have to pay even more. Not content with taking a $100 off you every month, you need to spend another $10. Why is this a rort? Well, most of the content you’re watching is shot in HD, so if they broadcast it as it was shot, then why pay another $10? Pace, who makes the Foxtel HD set top box, said that all of the IQ boxes delivered to Foxtel are HD enabled with a full HD processor built into the box at no extra cost.

Throw in the fact that the HD channels are then in between the normal entertainment channels and the movie and sports channels, you have to flick past them every time to get to anything. It’s like I’m being teased every time I scan the channels.

Management System

I had Foxtel about five years ago and in that time, no-one has thought to update the horrible, horrible content management system. It’s clunky. It’s ugly. It’s almost in 8 bit. And worst of all, you can’t use it and watch your show at the same time – unlike most modern HD TVs on the market. Even the shitty onboard computer system in my BMW has been updated in that time. Foxtel’s almost has cobwebs on it.

Again, the announcement yesterday mentioned IQ3 – Foxtel’s new management system – but will it be a patch-up or make-over on what exists, or will they have really put some sophisticated thought into the user experience and deliver a solution that wows the audience?

Mark Things To Record In Advance

There’s a new comedy series coming out with Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe called ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’. It’s due to start on Foxtel mid-September and promos for the series are running now. All the time. Think you can set the recording facility to record it now, two weeks out? Of course not.

Series Link Whilst Watching The Series

So you find something you like to watch, whilst you’re watching it, you would think you could series link the whole thing with one button? Nope. Not a chance.

By the end of the first week, I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that Foxtel doesn’t actually want me to enjoy the experience of using Foxtel, and they certainly don’t want me skipping adverts. It’s almost as if they want me to go and download some shows. There’s a slight smell of panic mode with Foxtel – new updates and ideas based on competition, and not based on a genuine desire to provide the best viewing experience.

One day soon ad-free Netflix will arrive in Australia and that will knock Foxtel off balance. Then an Apple TV app store will arrive and that will be the end of that. You can’t help thinking that the question isn’t whether Foxtel have done enough to grow their subscriber base, but whether they can hold onto it at all?

Simon Dell is the founder and director of full-service marketing agency, TwoCents.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.