Television viewers are voting with their mouse when it comes to choosing alternatives to free-to-air and pay TV.
No longer at the mercy of station programmers, viewers are flocking to their computers, smartphones and internet-enabled televisions to watch movies and shows when it suits them.
In the process, some are ditching pay TV subscriptions in favour of combining several entertainment options in one device. This includes opting for non-contract Foxtel on the Xbox, using broadband for streaming TV and considering an internet-enabled TV set.
Sydney resident Christine Kaard switched when her mobile broadband ran its contractual course three months ago. She and her 15-year-old son had been paying almost $100 for Foxtel each month, plus internet and landline access.
Advertisement: Story continues below ''We decided we weren't getting much value because we don't watch sport. And because we also wanted to change our broadband plan, we thought we could do with the T-Box,'' Ms Kaard says.
Being able to access the internet throughout the house via the bundled Wi-Fi modem helped sway her decision. ''Now we're paying about $90 for broadband and the T-Box with BigPond Movies.''
Telstra director, IPTV and pay TV, Ben Kinealy says consumers want choice.
''We took the decision to be everywhere - on Foxtel, online, T-Box and smart TVs. That is so powerful for the customer,'' he says. BigPond TV on tablets will be next.
Foxtel announced this week that subscribers who watch Foxtel via Xbox 360 on a BigPond broadband connection will be exempt from data-download charges, making all content unmetered.
Other internet service providers are also increasing their internet-protocol TV (IPTV) offerings, with Optus, Westnet and Internode recently joining iiNet in offering FetchTV. The service that originally required iiNet's Naked DSL broadband connection now works on ADSL too. It plans to be smartphone and tablet-ready this year.
What's Out There
FetchTV has come a long way since it was launched by iiNet late last year. We liked the picture quality, as well as the 30 free movies on-demand every month on the standard package. Set-up was fiddly but technical support was helpful. On-screen apps include Facebook, Twitter, weather and Mathletics, with YouTube to come. Fox Sports, BBC World News, National Geographic, digital free-to-air channels and on-demand movies are included. Bloomberg, European sports and foreign-language channels cost extra. The set-top box is also a personal video recorder. Prices start from $29.95 a month from iiNet for FetchTV2 subscription and box rental, plus $59 monthly broadband subscription, plus $69 for BoB modem purchase. Includes VoIP phone line. Coming: smartphone as remote control and a phone app to record shows remotely.
We were pleasantly surprised by the sleek and intuitive user interface and the EPG, which features images and text. It claims more video-on-demand titles than Foxtel but has no Showtime or Movie Network channels. We liked the ''related'' movies menu, where you can find other movies with the same actors or related genres. It includes all digital free-to-air stations, plus BigPond TV channels and BigPond News, produced by SkyNews. Set-up is via a simple wizard but sign-up is done on an internet-connected computer. We were promised that, in future, it will all happen on the TV screen. The box is also a personal video recorder. Bundles start at $89 a month plus $35 up front and include set-top box, broadband plan, modem and landline. Coming: smartphone as remote control, phone app to record shows remotely, T-Box on iPad, Foxtel on T-Box.
Samsung Smart TV
There are three ranges of Samsung Smart LED TVs (series 6, 7 and 8) in various sizes. All connect to the internet for streaming TV and web browsing. All are HD, 3D, offer 2D to 3D conversion, have HDMI, USB and Wi-Fi connections and claim better picture and sound quality. The Smart Hub is the gateway to internet entertainment. We found the user interface busy but liked the options. Browsing the internet on the TV screen feels awkward at first but we liked browsing while watching TV at the same time. The hub includes apps for BigPond TV and BigPond Movies (subscription required), YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Picasa, games, sports and more than you'll ever have time for. The TVs are DLNA (digital living network alliance) friendly, which means they are just another device on your home network capable of sharing content. Priced from $3199 for Series 7 46-inch.
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