Foxtel’s going 4K and the Satellite-delivery highlights NBN failure

Foxtel have finally announced they are adding 4K to their service. While there’s plenty of on-demand content like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube over the internet, this will be Australia’s...

Foxtel have finally announced they are adding 4K to their service. While there’s plenty of on-demand content like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube over the internet, this will be Australia’s first broadcast of live content, and only 24/7 channel delivered in 4K.

Foxtel will start the new channel, focusing on sport in October, just over a month and a half away. Channel 444 will come as part of Foxtel Platinum HD or Foxtel Sports HD subscriptions. Over the next 12 months the 4K content will include live sport, documentaries, concerts and more. 

Free-to-air broadcast spectrum is crowded and combined with restricted licences means many channels are still SD, some are HD and none are UHD. Foxtel are turning to their Satellite delivery to ensure they can guarantee customers get 4K content reliably into their homes.

This highlights a lack of confidence that the NBN can deliver a 4K service to a significant portion of their customer base. The satellite dependency feels like a backwards step to their forward leaning Foxtel Now (currently HD), IP-based delivery which provides the ability to get Foxtel faster, on more devices and without installation of a satellite. 

Does this mean 4K will never come to the Telstra TV 2 or Foxtel Box? No, but clearly the number of users with reliable internet, fast enough for 4K is not yet to a point where the company felt comfortable offering it for either user experience reasons or simple economics. Given both of these boxes feature apps from competitors that do deliver 4K content to the largest screen in your home, it’s technically possible, but the economics of Foxtel are very different to that of Netflix. 

For now, getting 4K from Foxtel will require you to have a Satellite service from Foxtel, the new iQ4 set top box ($125 iQ4 box fee), a compatible 4K TV and an eligible Foxtel subscription.

The Foxtel iQ4 box features include:

  • Team link – the ability to series link your favourite team. 
  • Sports menu – makes suggestions based on the sport you love
  • Recording space – now increased to 3x the space of iQ2. 
  • Bluetooth remote – no more IR blasting and line of sight
  • WiFi enabled 
  • Record up to 3 shows while watching a 4th. 

There’s currently no information on pricing information on how much extra the 4K content will cost each month, but if we look at the Netflix example, the premium 4K tier costs a few dollars more per month (while also allowing up to 4 simultaneous streams), something most sports fans would be prepared to pay. 

It’s important to understand, this is early days for broadcast 4K in Australia and as such, Foxtel will broadcast its live events via a mixture of native 4K and up-scaled, or “up-res”, formats.

  • Native resolution means that the event is filmed, encoded and broadcast in 4K end-to-end.
  • Upscaling is a process that takes video filmed at a lower resolution (e.g. HD) and adds pixels to produce images at 4K resolution.

Given sports like F1 are already captured and broadcast in 4K internationally, it seems logical that Foxtel would expand their offering of both live and on-demand content into the future. 

Foxtel have posted the following video to promote the new 4K service. For further information, head to https://www.foxtel.com.au/shop/foxtel-iq.html 

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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