IPTV faces new foe in Apple's revamped TV

The relaunch of Apple's "hobby" IPTV platform brings new challenges to local offerings

The first three Australian internet service providers (ISPs) to sign up to Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) service FetchTV now face increased competition in the form of Apple's newly revamped Apple TV service.

iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet have been the first to jump on FetchTV, a Malaysian-based IPTV platform that offers up to 14 subscription channels over the user's existing broadband service. iiNet reported in an ASX statement that it had seen 300 users sign up to the service as of mid-August and a lower support overhead than initially expected.

(See the FetchTV user interface at work)

Telstra has also begun to offer its own IPTV service through T-Box which it offers in competition to its own Foxtel cable subscription service.

However, the third generation of Apple TV's media centre poses a new challenge for service providers looking to enter the media market. Available for purchase this week, the service allows users to rent high definition (HD) movies, as well as stream YouTube, photos and music from their PCs.

In redesigning its "hobby" product, Apple has ditched the local hard drive storage on the device in return for greater reliance on the user's existing home network for downloads and streaming.

Apple charges $129 for the Apple TV set top box, plus $3.99 for library and $5.99 for new release standard definition move rentals. High definition library rentals start at $4.99 while new releases start at $6.99.

Users have 30 days to start watching downloads and can watch as many times as they choose within a 48 hours period.

In contrast, the FetchTV service is being offered, by iiNet, for $19.95 per month on no contract with a $399 fee for the set top box. Alternately a 24 month contract of $29.95 per month, plus a $99 set up fee, is available.

Under the FetchTV service, users are pushed seven movie titles per week and new release films, also available to watch for a period of 48 hours are offered starting at $3.95 per movie.

The FetchTV set top box is able to receive all the digital free-to-air channels and additionally features a ‘TV On Command’ service made up of ad-free international TV channels. Users can also pause, rewind and record live TV. Commenting on the launch of the service in April, iiNet chief executive, Michael Malone, said he felt very confident in launching the service against what was currently on offer in the subscription TV market.

“We know we have the service credentials, the technical and network capability and now, in this partnership with FetchTV, we have a killer set top box packed with killer content,” he said at the time.

Telstra's T-Box retails for $299 outright or $35 upfront with $11 per month on a 24 month contract. Movies can be rented for $5.99 for new releases to rent for 48 hours, while older movies are charged at $2.99 or $3.99.

ISPs have grappled with the notion of delivering media content to subscribers for sometime, with AAPT chief executive Paul Broad, earlier this year saying connectivity should still precede content when it comes to business models.

Adam Internet signed up to FetchTV this month while Internode is currently offering its customers a trial of the service.

The latter provider's trial has also extended to the National Broadband Network (NBN), where managing director, Simon Hackett, personally installed a box and required infrastructure for one of its first Tasmanian customers, Robert Pettman. The NBN trial comes ahead of wholesaler NBN Co switching on the multicasting aspect of the fibre-to-the-home network, normally a pre-requisite to such IPTV platforms. However, Hackett said he was able to specially configure Pettman's router for a point-to-point circuit that would bypass the limited capabilities of the Layer 2 NBN infrastructure.

"This arrangement allows us to test all other aspects of the use of FetchTV on the NBN, ahead of NBN Co technically supporting and enabling multicast," Hackett told Computerworld Australia.

"The point being that there are many other aspects of testing and assuring ourselves that FetchTV will work really well on the NBN, beyond multicast, and Robert is kindly assisting us with that testing and verification work as a real world customer of the service.

"And it is working really nicely for him."

Hackett said Internode was working closely with NBN Co to see the multicast portion of the network up and running soon. In the meantime, Pettman seems pleased with his unique service.

"I didn’t have cool toys like a FetchTV hooked up to it and things didn’t happen as fast as they do now," he said.

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