Foxtel Now Review: Is there life after Thrones?
Foxtel Now Review Verdict: Is it worth it?
As sad as it is to say, there’s not much keeping me subscribed to Foxtel Now these days.
Bingeing the final season of Game of Thrones was an absolute chore, with consistent buffering during key sequences and massive drops in video quality despite streaming on an internet connection that averages around 15 to 20 Mbps. I’d go as far to say Foxtel completely ruined the experience.
After Fox launched the successful sports streaming service Kayo Sports late last year, we expected Foxtel to follow-up with a revamped TV streaming service (the rumoured “Project Jupiter”) before the release of Game of Thrones Season 8. That never happened (though that’s since been revealed as Binge).
We want to like Foxtel Now because we prefer to pay for our content but it’s just so hard to love when it fails on almost every front except for quality content.
Is Foxtel Now worth it? Not by a long shot. We’d recommend saving your money until Foxtel ups its game and starts taking streaming seriously.
What is Foxtel Now?
Foxtel Now is a subscription-based video-on-demand service from Aussie media giant Foxtel. Launched in 2013 under the name Foxtel Play, Foxtel’s streaming app has chopped and changed over the years with significant pricing overhauls and slight UI improvements but throughout it all, one thing has remained true: whatever you call it, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Play, Foxtel App or Foxtel Go, the streaming app alternative to the cable provider’s exorbitant plans has always been a bit of a buffer-happy contender in Australia’s streaming service showdown.
While alternatives (like Netflix and Stan) have continued to evolve over the years, offering hearty 4K catalogues and generous plan pricing, Foxtel Now has turned into an unrecognisable product with less than its competition to justify the cost of admission. For years, Foxtel has depended primarily on two things: Game of Thrones and its comprehensive sports coverage. But with Game of Thrones officially wrapped up and Kayo Sport running laps around the competition, is Foxtel Now worth the premium price?
What TV shows are on Foxtel Now now that Game of Thrones is finished?
As we mentioned earlier, Game of Thrones has been Foxtel’s sharpest sword in the battle for your eyeballs for a long time now. While there will always be the sports nuts and CNN addicts, there’s an army of Australian drama fans who are chomping at the bit for something to replace Game of Thrones with and there’s no doubt Foxtel prays to the seven that something will take its place.
Realistically, there’s a truckload of quality content on Foxtel Now and in our opinion, many shows more worthy of your wallet than Game of Thrones; HBO and FX hits such as The Leftovers, Legion, True Detective, Chernobyl, What We Do In The Shadows, Veep, Barry, Better Things and High Maintenance are some of the best television shows available, let alone available on Foxtel. But here’s the thing, Foxtel only has “first-run rights” to many of these shows, meaning they become available on other digital platforms like iTunes, Google Play, PlayStation Store and Microsoft Store once the season has aired in Australia. The only reason people were so eager to catch Game of Thrones at the same time as the rest of the world was because, for some reason, society collectively decided it was a-okay with spoiling GoT the minute the credits rolled on each episode. That’s less of an issue with the premium shows mentioned above because they’re a little more niche.
Foxtel’s content lineup can also be a little unpredictable in terms of availability. Services like Stan and Netflix tend to add entire television and movie collections where they can. Sometimes Netflix or Stan will release each episode at a time as they air in the U.S. and keep the old episodes in their back catalogue but for the most part, these streaming services prefer you to binge entire seasons at a time. Foxtel’s chokehold on HBO and FX distribution isn’t as consistent.
For example, just a few weeks ago, I decided to finally check out HBO’s Better Things only to find out that Foxtel Now only offered the latest few episodes of Season 2; all episodes prior were completely missing from the service. I had the exact same issue when I tried to catch-up on FX’s Atlanta. In the end, I managed to catch the rest of Atlanta on SBS On Demand, which is honestly a better streaming service and completely free.
There’s also the head-scratching absence of certain popular TV shows for, sometimes, months after release. Last year’s batch of Ryan Murphy crowd-pleasers Pose and American Horror Story.
All in all, there’s a tonne of top-shelf telly streaming on Foxtel, it’s just a shame that it’s handled so poorly.
This could all be forgiven if Foxtel wasn’t charging a premium for its on-demand streaming service.
How much does Foxtel Now cost? Paying the iron price
Despite our complaints about the Foxtel Now app, the reality is, distribution deals are made with big, fat bags of cash. There’s no doubt that Foxtel has forked over a small fortune in order to lock down the first-run rights for the world’s most popular shows, like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead but there’s paying a premium and paying over double what the competition charges.
Foxtel Now is cheaper than its pay-TV counterpart, that much is true. But it’s also far more expensive than Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video; services that offer smooth, intuitive user interfaces, 4K streaming and unrivalled compression technology (so you can stream interruption free on slower broadband speeds).
Foxtel Now’s minimum monthly price is $25 per month. That will get you the Pop and Lifestyle channel packs which include FOX 8, FOX Showcase, MTV, Comedy Central, Lifestyle and Arena, just to name a few. That will get you a good deal of Foxtel’s most popular content, including Game of Thrones, Wentworth, The Walking Dead and Barry. But if you’re looking for the full suite of channels, you will pay up to $104 per month.
For the sake of comparison, Netflix’s highest plan will cost you $17.99 per month, giving you 4K/UHD streaming and four concurrent streams. Stan will cost you a little less at $17 per month for 4K/UHD, four concurrent streams and offline viewing on 5 phones or tablets. Prime Video’s Australian offering is priced at a reasonable $6.99 per month. Sure, none of these services have the latest shows from HBO but they’ve got their own award-winning lineup of TV shows, including Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Netflix’s Bojack Horseman and Stan has the rights to classics like Deadwood and Hannibal. When it comes to premium drama, Foxtel isn’t much without HBO and FX.
Here’s a brief overview of our streaming service round-up so you can get an idea of how Foxtel Now’s pricing and content highlights stack up.
How does Foxtel Now work?
Foxtel Now offers the same content as Foxtel without the need for a set-top box or monthly contract. It was launched to compete on the same stage as the immensely popular U.S. punter Netflix and Australia’s own local streaming champion, Stan. As such, it delivers a similar on-demand streaming experience.
TV shows and movies from Foxtel’s suite of channels can be watched any time on-demand or live at the same time as the rest of Australia for scheduled broadcasts. It is a standalone service that doesn’t require a traditional Foxtel subscription to use, unlike Foxtel’s companion app Foxtel GO, which is free for Foxtel cable and satellite subscribers.
The appeal of any streaming service is the on-demand content library and the number of devices compatible with the service. Foxtel Now, for example, is available on iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Chromecast, various Smart TVs and Xbox One… well, kind of. Confusingly, the ‘Foxtel Now’ app is still called ‘Foxtel Play’ on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Even though the service has been officially named Foxtel Now since June 2017.
While Foxtel Now offers more or less the same content library as Foxtel, there are a few key features that are held back (otherwise, why would you buy a Foxtel subscription?). Firstly, if you’re the type to record live broadcasts, there are no digital video recorder (DVR) devices compatible with Foxtel Now. That’s exclusive to Foxtel subscribers who purchase the Foxtel iQ box. There is a proprietary Foxtel Now box but it doesn’t have any DVR features and is more akin to something like Apple TV or Telstra TV. Same goes for 4K streaming. Ultra high-definition (UHD) or 4K streaming isn’t available on Foxtel Now at all, the most you can hope for is HD but the service’s adaptive bit-rate streaming and Australia’s sub-par broadband speeds mean you can only get the quality your broadband speed allows for.
Your broadband speed needs to be, at least, 7Mbps to watch Foxtel Now in high-definition (HD) and 3Mbps for standard-definition (SD). On-demand content can be streamed in 1080p with a steady 7Mbps connection but live television will cap at 720p. Not sure how fast your broadband speed is? Head over to our internet speed test tool to find out.
It’s also worth mentioning that only select titles, channels and devices will stream Foxtel Now in HD. Foxtel’s website has more information on HD-compatible devices and channels.
How many devices can I stream on with Foxtel Now?
Technically, you can stream Foxtel Now on up to five devices simultaneously. That’s more than Netflix or Stan but it also comes with a bit of extra red tape.
With Netflix or Stan, you can log into as many devices as you like. If you exceed the device limit, somebody will get booted. Foxtel, on the other hand, makes you “register” each device. When you register your device limit, you are asked to select a device to deregister. Once deregistered, that account will need to sign in all over again.
This isn’t much of an issue for most and the extra level of device management can be extra handy if you gave your neighbour Dave your login details one night after a few wines but it becomes a little annoying for large households; especially for parents who don’t share the password with their ankle biters.
Are there Foxtel Now and broadband bundles?
Unfortunately, no. If Foxtel could cover some (or all) of the cost for a Foxtel Now account with an appetising broadband bundle, you could easily justify a subscription. It’s strange that there are no bundles for Foxtel Now available considering Foxtel itself offers broadband plans.
If you’re looking to bundle a traditional Foxtel subscription, you can do so via Foxtel Broadband and Telstra TV. We’ve got more information on those deals in our guide to Australian TV and internet bundles.
How to cancel Foxtel Now
If you’re looking to go scorched earth on Foxtel Now after the Game of Thrones finale, then head over to your account page with your login details and click the “Deactivate service” button. You will then be directed to another page where you will be asked to fill out a form before unsubscribing. Once you’ve filled out the form, hit the deactivate button. There, you’ve successfully saved yourself $25 per month (minimum).
If something does catch your eye and you’d like to resume your Foxtel Now subscription you can do so with the click of a button at your account page (to save going through the whole sign-up process again). If you’d like to completely close your account with Foxtel, you will have to call customer service on 13 19 99.