First Look At Foxtel Downloads

07Playback Foxtel's download service, which offers free 7-day downloads to existing subscribers, went live today after a few teething glitches. Here's a first look at what it offers.

While anyone with an active Foxtel account can access the service, there's a few cautions to bear in mind (which Chris over at Gizmodo has neatly summed up). The service is Windows only, requires the use of a dedicated player, and doesn't have any deals in place to offset download use.

To use the service, you'll need to first register for a Foxtel online account (which includes an appallingly over-sensitive CAPTCHA process that makes Google's own feeble efforts look state-of-the-art). During registration, you'll need both your account number, which you can find on your bills or installation documents, and your smart card number, which can be found on the smart card in your set-top box or iQ and begins with three zeros. Switch off the device before you remove the card.

After registering and signing in, visit the download page to access the player installer. The installation is 5.3MB, which isn't too excessive.

Once you run the installer, it will ask you for an online validation code. There's supposed to be a system to automatically add this if you're signed in, but it wouldn't work for me in Firefox without a separate visit to the site.

01UserValidation

You can also set some user preferences before installation. I de-selected the 'run on startup' option since I hate extra software dragging down my boot time.

02UserPreferences

At launch, you get one more reminder that you could be in for a world of ISP bill pain:

03BroadbandWarning

The chromeless player is pretty bare-bones when you start up, launching into a My Downloads screen with nothing in it. The suggestions section doesn't seem to be working yet. (Note also the Dominos ordering button, which isn't very sophisticated: it's just a link to the Dominos site.)

04InitialOptions

To actually download anything, you need to return to the Foxtel site. Despite still being signed in to Foxtel, the newly-launched download window didn't recognise my login -- this process should be a lot smoother. The site itself uses a series of small preview windows for each available show or movie. There's a search option, but it didn't seem to be working when I tried it, returning 0 results even when the exact names of shows listed on the site were entered.

04Movies

According to the site, a typical 30 minute show will consume about 300MB. The shows you can download are limited by the packages you have -- because I'm on the simplest Foxtel package, a lot of content is off limits (indicated with a padlock icon). Selecting a download launches another browser window (which you're warned not to close), then begins the download process in the software itself. Again, this feels messy and badly planned -- an integrated player would be much better.

05Downloading

As I write, a simple 30 minute show is downloading (on a standard Telstra ADSL connection), a process predicted to take up to two hours. As such, it's hardly a compelling way of hunting down some content to view in a hurry: for that, iView or YouTube are more appealing. One mitigating factor: once a show is partially downloaded, you get a 'Playback Enabled' notification and can start watching the video.

Playback is handled via an embedded version Windows Media Player, and you'll need to download a codec update before you can watch anything. The playback controls are basic -- Play/Pause, skip to the beginning or end, a volume control, and a full-screen toggle. Annoyingly, there's no rewind or fast forward options when watching a partially downloaded video (even dragging the timeline didn't work).

Picture quality was impressive on my laptop, but I'm not entirely sure how well it would work streamed to a typical lounge room television.

My initial verdict? The search and download experience needs to be smoother, the lack of speed during downloads is disappointing and restrictive, if a little expected, and the playback system should have more flexibility. If you give the player a whirl yourself -- or manage to get it work on a Mac inside an emulator -- tell us about it in the comments.

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Comments

    No Mac support is bad enough (how many people use Macs at home these days - exactly where this is aimed at) but now you expect me to downgrade back to 32bit Windows as well?

    I guess the sort of people that this will effect don't really need the service anyway but still, this is disappointing.

    My parents have Foxtel but I don't. There's no way that they will use this service.

    Is there anything stopping me from using their account number and smart card number to use this service at my house?

      @Mr Explody - Yes, you can definitely use your parent's account number and card number to download Foxtel content.

      There's no way that Foxtel can limit the downloading to your parent's residence...

        I think you slightly misunderstood me. I don't live at my parent's residence.

        He did understand you.

        Boris didn't mean "limit" how MUCH is downloaded to your parents' house. He means there is no way they can limit you from only being able to download shows at their house.

    According to the Foxtel Download help the Mac isn't supported because "the Mac operating system doesn’t support Digital Rights Management (DRM)" - obviously untrue - it's poorly worded because what they later say "If DRM is supported for Windows Media Player on Mac OS in the future, then we can begin to plan to offer the service to Mac users" - what they omit here is that, of course, there actually is no Windows Media Player for OS X so they don't intend to support it at all...

    I'm trying to run it with XP on VMWare but the app won't register my "computer" with Foxtel, wondering if they actually tested this on a virtual machine at all - "However you can use FOXTEL Download on Apple Macs running a full Windows emulator"

    I'm also guessing that there's no way to save a local copy of the show that you've downloaded, correct?

    sounds like absolute rubbish!

    This doesn't work on all versions of XP or Vista.

    If you use 64 bit versions of either it won't install.

    Awesome.

    Is there a way to schedule downloads to start at "off peak" times?

    Well this is a big waste.
    The two biggest downsides to this is:
    1) It doesn't work on anything except Windows 32bit
    2) It uses up my already ridiculously small download quota and I am with Telstra Bigpond
    The logging and registering problems may be cumbersome and awkward but thay can be improved whereas the downsides above look like making it fail.

    Doesn't inspire me to want to run out and get foxtel. I'm planning on using 64 bit Windows 7.

    I think they forgot the 'Alpha release' tag?

    Few things to clear up.

    There is Microsoft Windows Media player for Mac OS X (however Microsoft are no longer updating it) and also software called Flip4Mac which allows you to play windows media content inside a QuickTime compatible application. They are correct in saying DRM protected content is not supported in the Mac version of Windows Media Player or Flip4Mac. I am surprised that Silverlight wasn't used as it has excellent video quality and the DRM is supported on Windows and Mac OS X and possibly even linux. My guess is they just bought this off the shelf system thats quite a few years old or even worse used Telstra's.

    I would have thought it would work fine in VMWare providing the guest OS meets the requirements. These are not technically emulators, they are virtualization software. Macs now use Intel chips and no longer need to do "emulation" to run Windows.

    This was obviously coded in FAILISTAN
    Win 7 x64...the player app won't install/not supported
    Top work Foxtel

    This is an interesting glimpse of the future, not a useful service.
    Such big downloads are going to kill most broadband quotas (except the kind held by BT addicts), so until Telstra or iiNet get involved it's a minefield to enable (makes it far too easy for kids or unsuspecting technophobe to destroy yr data limit in a day).
    The proprietary interface is not going to work well with most ppl's home media setup, which is usually a mishmash of platforms (Windows Media Centre, Apple TV, random multimedia-enabled hard drives) plugged into a TV.
    As Gizmodo pointed out, the expiring content is a bummer, especially as you have to wait so long for a download (are their servers underpowered?).
    All in all: nice try, but no iPlayer.

    Ok - I am going to swim against the tide here. I don't think Foxtel is suggesting you to throw your TV away and use this service exclusively.
    This service is a handy adjunct to your viewing options. It is a actually a handy option for a frequent flyer to take some entertainment with them. There is presently a large weighting towards movies and I think it would be good to see more diversified content. World movies would be a good addition to the channels available to download from. Nik

    No 64-bit support?
    No Mac support?
    Can't watch on my iPhone (because face it, if I'm at home I'm going to watch on the TV)?

    Lame.

    This is what happens when you offshore all of your development to India and do not really involve any technical minded staff. Sheesh, even your customer service staff would of been able to tell you that a lot more testing and options need to be available before launch. It shows how poorly this was thought out when they don't even have support for the latest gadget, the iphone..

    I think it's time Foxtel brought their development back onshore or their customers to start hitting them where it hurts the most, their profit margins!

    This is truly comical.

    Although it great to see these guys finally catching up, realising that there is a whole new medium to distribute their product.

    I already feel sorry for the poor mum's n dad's that do not understand that their Telstra(insert other appropriate ISP's) internet will cost them $150+per GB(around 3 30min shows) once they go over their 200-600Mb plans.

    A note that Liberty plan users will be ok, as long as they don't watch more than one show a day. Otherwise welcome back to dial up.

    I am sure there are other ISP's that have false cost to their data also. GL

    @Reece i think that is more of a telstra issue than anything else, i mean if you pay $40-$60 for 400-600mb, or even $70-$90 for 12gb, you probably deserve to be charged extra; a stupid tax if you will. even optus is considerably cheaper, $50/7gb and $70/15gb. or go with something cheaper, tpg or iinet or aapt. they all offer closer to 50-150gb for the same money. i find it hilarious that people even use telstra. $150 for 50gb? tpg doesnt go that expensive. only up to $70 for 150gb. so... 3 times teh downloads for 1/2 the costs

    105gb per month with Exetel for $100 a month. 8mb plan.

    People who use telstra are too lazy to find a proper plan, and deserve their stupid tax! This service on an 8mb line sounds great, although a little rough at the moment.

    Anyone know if you can transfer files between machines, if you have the software installed and setup on both machines?

    Yes, I have it working on my Mac. I'm using Parallels and Windows 7 RC and it works fine after doing the clunky install they have. Don't know how much I'll actually use it but at least it works.

      Hey CatFan73, how did you get it to work on parallels? I've got it set up on xp- no problem downloading the player and getting content ready to download but it won't download. Each time it says I don't have enough disk space... I've tried changing the download folder in the players settings but no luck. There is stacks of space on my computer and I even tried increasing my parallels partition size. Would love to hear how you got it to work!

    ABC iView is a much better model for TV downloads. No mac/windoze compatibility issues there and I would imagine the ABC would have all the same copyright concerns that Foxtel do. But really, what is this TV on the PC thing anyway? All a great experiment and essential to work out where to take it, but for now, watching a movie on my laptop or desktop is not a great experience. To many compromises on this attempt.

    Can't believe it won't work on Windows 7 64bit - wouldn't this be easy for them to have fixed before launch? Can't seem to install it with the compatability option either.

    haha sounds like rubbish... the silly thing is, that even if I wanted to use this service I can't as when I've rung up Foxtel in the past, they've said they can't help me because they have agreement with Austar that they won't service customers in my area.

    Bring on 64-bit support.

      No 64bit Windows 7 support is ridiculous! Get your act together Foxtel!

    I found the download and cant seem to rip them ? anyone know how - rip to ipod software wont open

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