EXCLUSIVE: The digital set top box market is set to get a major competitor in the new year with FetchTV currently negotiating with mass retailers to launch a small footprint sub $399 Full HD media centre box that delivers access to 200 content channels, movies, ethnic programs and free to air TV.A key benefit of the 1 terabyte box, which could be a major threat to Telstra’s T Box, is a sleek new interface that allows users to toggle between watching a Fetch TV program on their TV at home or on an iPad at a remote location.
“All they need is a Fetch TV account and access to Wi Fi” said FetchTV CEO Scott Lorson.
In an exclusive look yesterday SmartHouse was able to call up a program in seconds on an iPad and then choose whether I wanted to watch the program on a TV or an iPad display screen.
The speed that the new software accesses information and delivers it to the screen is significantly faster than the current Foxtel offering due to the rewriting of the FetchTV interface in HTML 5.
The design of the new stylish box is clever with a vented air cooling system designed into the box, eliminating the need for a noisy fan.
The new box which has 1GB of RAM will be sold by mass retailers, as well as carriers Optus and iiNet.
Users will also be able to access music channels as well as Full HD music video content.
Lorson said that he anticipates launching the new offering in February or March.
The move will be a blow to IceTV’s aspiration of launching a new set top box in the new year as FetchTV is able to access exclusive content that will be missing from the IceTV offering.
The new FetchTV offering could also impact sales of the Telstra T Box. Since its launch two years ago, Telstra has sold 450,000 T Box packages; a move that has not gone unnoticed by Foxtel.
Initially Foxtel management did not see the T Box as a threat. Now there is speculation that the T Box operation could be handed over to Foxtel after pressure from its 50% owner, News Ltd.
Rick Ellis, the former Television New Zealand chief executive, who was handed control of Telstra’s 50 per cent stake in Foxtel when he joined Telstra, is believed to be struggling to secure major movie deals for Telstra.
Recently Ellis said he will launch new bundles offering access to linear content, transactional video on demand and subscription video on demand, at home and remotely, using a single login.
He claims Telstra is exploring ways to add new premium content, and even new channels to its IPTV platform, accessible via the T-Box and on smart devices over its superfast 4G mobile network.
However, insiders have told SmartHouse that Ellis is under pressure from News Ltd management who believes the T Box offering “is taking away” from the Foxtel offering”.
Ironically the man credited with the success of the T Box in Australia, Ben Kinealy, is set to take on a role in the Middle East for the parent Company that owns FetchTV.
Recently Fetch TV held discussions with several TV manufacturers who are interested in getting access to FetchTV content which includes movies from most Hollywood studio channels. The move comes as Quickflix, a current partner of several TV manufacturers, struggles to survive in the IPTV market.
According to Lorson he is not interested in simply delivering another Smart TV app “If we do deliver content we want to deliver a high quality HDMI 2 service”.
Movie content on the new set top box is set to cost between $3.95 for access to library content, $5.95 for standard definition and $6.95 for premium content.
On the back of the new FetchTV set top box is 3 USB ports as well as HDMI ports.
Recently FetchTV said that they are contemplating an NBN deal that would see it become a network backhaul operator.
The move would allow the IPTV service to create a multicast system that would let its partners deliver the service in a more competitive fashion.
Essentially, the multicast would allow the pay-TV service to be streamed just once to all points of interconnect (PoI) on the network, reducing the network-related costs. NBN retailers would then be able to grab the service from those points and send it on to residences.