The recent announcement of FOXTEL teaming up with Microsoft to deliver cable TV service via the Xbox 360 has sent a shiver of excitement through the tech community, and a ripple of uneasiness through Sony Australia on the launch day of their own PS3 based video delivery service.
AusGamers sat down with Andrew Jenkins, local Xbox Product Manager in an attempt to expand on the announcement.
AusGamers: This was short notice! Microsoft surprised many and sprung this at a good time, upon the launch day of the PlayStation Network Video Service.
Andrew Jenkins: Yes! We did a good job keeping this under our hat. We have been in an exciting position, a leadership position having launched our Zune movie service, which has seen tremendous success. But now the ability to bring the Big Dog in the room, Foxtel, to the service, with great content, over 30 channels, everything from FOX Sports to Disney, Nickelodeon, there is going to be fantastic content available on the Xbox 360.
AG: Is Live Sport part of this content?
AJ: We will have both 'on-demand' and live sport available through Xbox 360, now we haven't announced all that line-up, or exactly every channel, as well as we haven't announced pricing yet. That will come when we get closer to Launch. [Launch] will definitely be fourth quarter of this year, and it will be in time for Christmas.
AG: Do you envisage the package choices will be similar to what Foxtel offer their clients today, or will it be more a more channel selective offering?
AJ: Well the unique thing about Foxtel by Xbox LIVE is, because of our model, because we can have the device already at homes, a device that can be bought at retail, which is the Xbox 360, it offers us more flexibility for Foxtel. So now Foxtel will be able to offer compelling price packaging for a variety of content. Consumers will enjoy the choice to get existing Foxtel content, which offers a heap of great content such as the Foxtel IQ, and their digital offering, but then there will be Foxtel by Xbox LIVE offering its compelling content for its own compelling price.
AG: I am glad you mentioned the IQ, one thing that springs to mind is whether there be IQ or PVR like functionality, pausing, rewinding etc?
AJ: It's an on-demand service primarily, this allows you to find the content you want to watch, you press play when you want to watch, you can stop it, come back, rewind. Because it is on-demand it gives you the capability to watch it when you want. Of course there will also be live TV, which won't have those features, but all the on-demand content will.
AG: Can we just clarify the Live Sport question? Sport, including AFL and NRL will be one of the big sellers for this product.
AJ: Absolutely, the AFL and NRL are currently not included because the digital rights are still locked up right now, but those rights become available into the market next year, and it all depends on who secures those rights. That is a conversation that Foxtel will have to talk about. As to other sport, there will be plenty of sport content that will be on the box, both live and on demand. And we will announce exactly what that will be closer to the launch date.
The Xbox 360 also has that social element when watching the Foxtel content, similar to what we have with the party mode in the Zune movie service. So if I am sitting here in Sydney, and you are there in Melbourne, we can sit there and have that conversation, while watching that great sporting event, still chatting with each other over the Xbox Live service.
That is one of the great things in being able to deliver the content as well as the social element to it, so I can sit there and watch that awesome sporting event and heckle my friend sitting next to me or across the continent.
AG: Will the Xbox 360 require a hard-drive for any of this content?
AJ: No, because this content is 'steaming' no hard drive is required.
AG: The statement that this service will be only available in 'Foxtel areas', is that due to regulation and agreements in place to protect satellite Ausstar services?
AJ: It is available where Foxtel has the rights to distribute the content, Foxtel current publicised areas.
AG: Have you been speaking to ISP's regarding unmetering of this content?
AJ: I think it is very interesting if you look at trends in the marketplace today. You already see that caps are increasing, speeds are getting faster, and prices are coming down. The ISP's are already doing amazing work in this department; some ISP's are already offering unlimited plans. However I can tell you that Kim Williams [FOXTEL Chief Executive and Managing Director] said today that he is in discussions with ISP's and that they are very interested in unmetering this service.
AG: Will this include high definition content?
AJ: When we launch it won't include HD content. That was something that Kim also mentioned today, that he was considering HD content.
AG: Can you clarify what exactly a Foxtel by Xbox Live subscription model will entail? Will it be a similar model to Xbox Live as a 12 month contract, or month-by-month or on-demand style?
AJ: Well I know, because of the business model, Foxtel can look at new ways of pricing and also contract. So I think our consumers will be pleasantly surprised what will be available when we make those announcements, unfortunately that is as much as I can give you.
Were making it as easy as possible for people to access content, and then it is all about choice. We're giving consumers the most amount of choice to reach the best content out there, available on any service.