Foxtel Uncover Foxtel HD+ — Because Sometimes HD Just Isn’t Enough

Insitu Tight Foxtel HD.jpg

Today is a happy day for Hi-Def lovin’, flat-panel TV-totin’, gadget-obsessed Australians everywhere. And yes, that does mean you. The reason it’s such a happy day is that Foxtel has officially unveiled its new HD service, including the new Hi-Def box, at a media conference in Sydney. At which I was lucky enough to attend.

So strap yourself in, get yourself comfortable and hit the jump for all the info you can possibly imagine.

FoxtelHDangle.jpgThe new service is called Foxtel HD+. Why the ‘+’? We think it might have something to do with the extra dollars you’ll have to pay. Maybe – pricing and release date haven’t been announced yet, so that’s just us having a friendly rib at Foxtel’s pricing structure at the moment.

The core component of the Foxtel HD+ service is the Foxtel iQ2. As the name suggests, its the successor to their successful iQ box. It works in much the same way, by letting you record content to its internal hard drive (which, as we announced previously, is a “massive” 320GB). That will give you about 30 hours of HD recording or 90 hours of SD, with some capacity reserved for Foxtel’s on demand services.

Inside, there are three HD tuners (so you can record two shows while watching a third), plus a fourth tuner for Foxtel to push content onto your device at their leisure. What kind of content, you ask? Well, it’s all about the On Demand programming – HD movies will be available on demand, and will start instantly thanks to this 4th tuner.

Like the previous iQ, there’s no connection to external storage or the ability to burn content thanks to licensing requirements from their content partners, but there is an HDMI output (only 1.2, I’m afraid), and an ethernet port for future services (potentially IPTV, although that isn’t confirmed at this stage) once broadband speeds in Australia improve.

FoxtelHD front.jpgContent-wise, Foxtel will launch their new service with 4 dedicated HD channels. They include BBC HD, Fox Sports HD, ESPN HD, Discovery HD and National Geographic HD, plus HD movies on demand. These channels will broadcast content in both 720p or 1080i, depending on how the content is recorded (US sports on ESPN HD, for example, are recorded at 720p, whereas the AFL is recorded at 1080i). For those of you who can count, at launch Discovery and National Geographic will be a single channel.

These four channels will be expanded in May 2009 when the D3 satellite goes online and increases their bandwidth. They also plan to show the 2010 Commonwealth and Winter Olympic games in HD, multichannelling up to eight different channels in Hi Def for each tournament.

Although pricing / release dates haven’t been announced, they assure us we’ll be seeing it before mid 2008. The full press release is below, and there were a few other interesting tidbits I’ll put up over then next day or so, but feel free to go comments crazy!

MEDIA RELEASE: January 30, 2008
FOXTEL today unveiled details of its new High Definition (HD) service – which will be known as FOXTEL HD+ – and revealed the initial exclusive channel line-up at launch would comprise the world’s strongest subscription television brands, namely BBC HD, Discovery HD, National Geographic HD, FOX SPORTS HD and ESPN HD, plus for the first time the introduction of blockbuster movies in HD and On Demand through FOXTEL Box Office.
FOXTEL HD+ will deliver FOXTEL subscribers a complete HD service with:
•Stunningly beautiful HD pictures and immersive surround sound +
•The introduction of the new generation iQ2, delivering incredible iQ functionality and technology +
•Four dedicated, exclusive 24/7 HD channels – the most expansive HD program offering in Australia +
•True On Demand, High Definition movies +
•Exceptional customer care, lifetime service and support
This all adds up to FOXTEL HD+ and will be the most comprehensive HD service available to Australian consumers. FOXTEL HD+ will provide the ultimate experience for subscribers with increased choice to access HD entertainment in addition to FOXTEL’s standard definition service.
It is the next step in the progressive evolution and expansion of FOXTEL which currently provides a full digital offering of more than 100 channels and interactive services, an intuitive and intelligent iQ set-top-unit with a fully integrated electronic program guide and complimentary services available on mobile and the internet.
FOXTEL Chief Executive and Managing Director Kim Williams AM said: “FOXTEL is the home of HD and we can expect consumer demand to be high. FOXTEL HD+ will deliver HD TV the way it should be. It’s about watching what you want and when you want. FOXTEL’s HD+ service will optimise viewer experience, ensure more consumer choice, and provide unequalled customer and technical support and programming for Australian viewers.
“Today marks a significant step in our HD journey. We’ve outlined the programming and channels that FOXTEL will have available at our mid-2008 launch. We’ve also released details about the new iQ2 set-top-unit and secured the world’s leading subscription television brands.
“FOXTEL has cemented its position as the leading innovator and provider of choice in television entertainment in Australia. FOXTEL HD+ will provide consumers with a complete, innovative HD solution with the best pictures and sound that is very simple to use.
“And in 2010, FOXTEL will also showcase its coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics and the Delhi Commonwealth Games and in 2012 the London Summer Olympics in stunning HD,” Mr Williams said.
FOXTEL HD+ will launch mid-2008 (with the official launch date to be announced shortly), along with full pricing and packaging details.
FOXTEL is also committed to expanding the FOXTEL HD+ service from as early as 2009 with the launch of a brand new satellite and access to increased cable capacity that will allow FOXTEL to provide a range of new standard definition and HD channels.
FOXTEL Executive Director of Content, Product Development and Delivery, Patrick Delany said: “High Definition is the future of television and provides viewers with a true to life experience with amazing pictures and immersive surround sound that puts you in the centre of the entertainment. If you have a HD ready plasma or LCD TV, you will just have to have FOXTEL HD+.
“FOXTEL has secured some of the biggest brand names in television for the launch of FOXTEL HD+, providing Australian consumers with the most comprehensive HD content that is available covering sport, general entertainment and documentaries.
“FOXTEL is not just dipping its toe in the HD pond, we are immersing ourselves by delivering Australian viewers four, 24 /7 HD channels of some of the greatest television brand names who are the leaders in HD content and delivery.
“To have BBC HD, Discovery HD, National Geographic HD, FOX SPORTS HD and ESPN HD on board for our
launch will deliver a truly fantastic high definition experience for our subscribers with thousands of hours of must see HD programming.
“In addition our subscribers will have access to the latest FOXTEL Box Office movies in HD and for the first time available On Demand, meaning they are ready to watch instantly with a 48-hour viewing window,” Mr Delany said.