Why Do You Pay For Pay TV?

Many Lifehacker readers favour Channel BT over pay TV, but there are more than 1.6 million households which pay for Foxtel, and another three-quarters of a million which have Austar. Oddly, having lots of extra channels isn’t necessarily a major incentive for choosing to pay for TV.

TV Tonight reported recently on a survey by pay TV industry organisation ASTRA which asked subscribers why they had pay TV. Just 52% cited the range of channels on offer, which means that wasn’t a consideration for nearly half of the subscribers.

That struck us as a rather low percentage, so we figured we’d investigate why Lifehacker readers pay up for pay TV?

Feel free to expand on your reason for paying for (or avoiding) pay TV in the comments.


  • Sigh… why do the polls on Lifehacker/Gizmodo always have the final option as a condescending remark!?

    Anyway, I had to chose option 2 above – as that’s the closest reason – but it’s much more than that.

    Personally I’m happy to pay to watch the sport that I love on Foxtel with much less advertising (meaning replays of goals rather than a Harvey Norman ad shouting at me), in HD and LIVE!

    Our household also makes use of the greater range of programming as we try and steer clear of channels 7, 9 and 10 as much as possible. In fact it’s not unusual to go half a year without the need to use them, and it’s normally a sporting event (AFL Grand Final, Aussie Open final – which was delayed in Perth BTW!) which makes us use them.

    We also use the HD On-Demand movie service at least once a month.

    • I… I could have sworn I hadn’t responded yet, but reading your response I’m not so sure. Everything I wanted to say, and the reasons my household has Foxtel… And you’re in Perth…

      Brain… Exploding… Reality… Melting…

  • Few years back, the family was subscribed to Optus Vision (did I saw a few years back? Seems like a lifetime ago!) and it was great. During the 90’s, though I was a little young, there wasn’t much on offer for free-to-air users.

    Nowadays, with the inclusion of digital networks, what need is there for a paid-for service? Sure enough, the likes of ESPN, Fox 8 and any other cable network offers what no free-to-air service can, but is it really worth digging into your pockets?

    I was subscribed to Xbox LIVE and was using Foxtel with it. Maybe the UI was a huge letdown, but the selection of content seemed limited. You would watch (insert popular Fox TV show here) and not even 12 hours later, that same episode would play again. If that were on Foxtel, it would of been playing a second time, before the first one was even finished.

    From about 3-4 months ago, I have stopped paying for pay TV. I either just wait for it to air on free-to-air TV, or I resort to other means to get what I want. I dislike it as much as the next guy, but with the amount of adverts that they cram into these services, you would expect to pay a decent amount and not feel ripped off!

  • My wife likes the broad range of entertainment channels – yes, a lot of the content can be taken from Channel BT, but the cost of convenience plus a DVR is easier for her. With discounts and such from bundles it’s not that expensive.

    Sometimes its easier to just chill in front of the TV and watch Discovery then hunt down shows on Usenet/BT.

    • “The survey of more than 300 television watching households found:
      * 34% are watching programming regularly on screens in addition to their TV sets;
      * 81% said choice of programming drove their decision to have subscription TV
      * 52% said they get a variety of programming on subscription TV not found elsewhere”

  • It seems the only value in Pay TV is if you’re really into sports or Reality TV. Beyond that there is very little unique content. It doesn’t address what Channel BT does in terms of content or accessibility (which I would gladly pay for if possible) and quality wise is pretty much on par with the free channels. Plus it has just as many adverts

  • Live sport is the main reason, but also access to random doco’s. BT is fine if you know exactly what you want to go and grab and watch, and I still use it for some shows to get them as they air overseas such as NCIS and Dr Who. But I enjoy a lot of the doco’s on History, BBC Knowledge, Bio etc… stuff you find while flipping or checking the program that you maybe wouldn’t chase down on BT

  • If I could buy the sports channels only (and get rid of all the fluff they use to “justify” the exorbitant subscription rates), I’d strongly consider PayTV.. at a price point below $25/month.

    As that’s never going to happen… “Paying for TV access is for Chumps!”

    • Yes and amen brother
      I’m sick of big conglomerates cashing in on everything. Foxtel is a joke. They sell you their product, lock you in and then cash in with THE SAME ADS YOU GET ON FTA! Keep footy FREE

  • I selected the final option.
    If I could subscribed per channel and pay $30 or $40 per month for the 6 or 8 channels I would actually watch I would consider subscribing. Under their current pricing models it would cost in excess of $100 per month for the channels I want plus dozens that I would never watch.

  • Definitely the sport. I signed up to Pay Tv a few years ago when i was spending way too much time at the pub watching the footy which was turning out to be expensive in itself, considering i cant be at the pub and not have a beer in my hand. That and the sports news and talk shows you get which are so much better than that on FTA tv Most of the TV series i watch these days i download through channel BT, although i still find myself watching stuff on Fox even though it is easily accessible off BT (eg, i have every episode of grand designs but i still tune in at 9:30 most nights).

    Is it worth my $100 a month? Probably not, but it does mean i spend less time at the pub which is probably a good thing.

  • We love our foxtel, but that’s mainly because of the well-integrated IQ2 and remote. We only get the basic subscription, which is all free-to-air plus a few extras. We rarely watch tv live, preferring to record everything – even if it’s just live pause – and watch it on our own terms. My wife and I each have our favourite programs and with series link (automatically recording of a series) that means whenever we decide to sit down in front of the telly, it’s on our own terms.

  • It’s like being in a bad relationship,.. Sometimes I feel like an abused spouse using “Austar”, I mean I really hate the fact that I’ve pretty much seen all of it, and I do mean ALL many times over, but I just can’t force myself to ditch it… why is that :[

  • If I did, I would be doing it for live sport. You just don’t get the choice on FTA.

    However, I don’t use pay TV, and never have. Simply because I do not see the value in it. Sadly, the quality in shows is declining, and the stuff I do like I will watch and end up getting a box set or something.

  • Three reason’s – Live HD Sport on Foxtel, no FTA digital broadcasts here, and very poor ADSL speeds on Channel BT.

    Regional WA doesn’t yet have commercial FTA digital TV – WIN & GWN only broadcast analogue 4:3 crap, which looks nasty on a HD projector in the home theater.

    I was planning on dumping Foxtel if we ever get digital FTA and multichannels (ie OneHD etc), but with new 2012+ AFL rights for live AFL on Foxtel will prob keep it.

  • I used to be willing to pay for PayTV (whilst still enjoying the convenience of channelBT) back when it wasn’t chock full of ads.

    I think it was the proliferation of the ads for ringtones on the music channels, and FX inserting ads into classic movies, that finally made me ask why i was PAYING to see commercials.

    disconnecting foxtel is not only financially rewarding, but freeing up all the time spent in front of the tv is even better.

  • i get it for the wog channels for my folks, and because we have 2 boxes plus movie channels, that’s $100 a month…i think it’s ludicrous, but what can you do…

  • Currently I do not subscribe to Pay TV but with the recent AFL TV rights deal I am seriously having to consider it. Living in Perth we’ll get 4 AFL games shown on free to air TV with only 2 of those games being shown live! As expected Eagles and Dockers games will take priority in those 4 free to air time slots. But as a Richmond supporter I could be facing the prospect of maybe seeing my team play once every 2-3 weeks, depending on what games are scheduled, and there’s a 50% chance that it’ll be on delayed telecast and no guarantee it’ll be in HD.

    With Foxtel set to show every game live and in HD, if you pay extra for it, it’s very tempting to jump on board. The only thing holding me back is the cost. With the current Foxtel Sports package priced at $90 per month it’s just too much of an extra to add to my current budget. I’m looking for ways to cut back costs in other areas to be able to afford it but like most other Aussie families with kids, this just isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    I don’t even want the extras. If Foxtel were to offer just a 6 month (length of AFL season) Sports Package on it’s own for around $20 a month I’d be handing over my credit card details in a flash! Hint, hint Foxtel. 🙂

  • I like the range of documentaries.
    Downloading tv shows takes too much effort.
    I load the Foxtel guide up on my iPhone, select the shows I want to watch, series link. Then they are waiting on my box to watch when ever I want.
    I also like randomly channel surfing to find an interesting doco. Thats not something you would get from downloading, as in you can’t channel surf BitTorrent. Most people when they go to download have something they want to watch in mind already.

  • Don’t get me started on Foxtel. They effectively have a monopoly on pay TV and as a result can make you pay more than you should.

    Why should I pay to have channels I don’t want (they spread the decent channels across packages that have content you really don’t want)? Why should I pay to have a ridiculous amount of advertising? Why is their support so comlpetely pointless?
    If there was any real competition they wouldn’t force these things onto us.
    It’s not all bad (IQ2 and series link are pretty good features/services – although it does annoy me that saved content can’t be viewed when the service goes down) but you can’t help but feel they’re taking you for a bit of a ride.

    Currently the legal alternatives are far and few between and I look forward to IP TV taking off and bringing them into line.


  • When Foxtel started running advertisements I cancelled their service (so it’s a while ago now). I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay to have some cretin yell at me in an attempt to make me buy something I neither want nor need.
    As I’m not a sports fanatic I don’t feel any sense of loss.

  • I refuse to pay for TV and still have to watch ad’s..
    It would be nice to have access to more channels, and a wider range of content, Higher chance of there actually being something on that i would like to watch.
    Pay paying for the service and also having to watch ad’s feels like double dipping to me.

  • Well… I live in in TransAct land (where politicians sing from the roof tops and someone tried to get lots of people linked up with cable for TV, internet and telephone). Initially a good idea that had the benefit of dramatically improving our television reception – but it’s getting pretty old hat now – 1M down/128k up anyone? Certainly isn’t keeping up with other market offerings (I can pay an extra $10 pcm. to have my speed DOUBLED… 2M down/256k up. WOW!).

    Of course that is just for the broadband infrastructure. I also have to pay my ISP.

    So. I’m in the process of technological divorce. Once the STB is working OK and I can receive the (few) TV channels that we like (say no to ‘Go Harvey’…, GO AWAY’) I’ll be dropping pay TV AND moving to ADSL2. The kids do like a couple of the Pay TV channels and one complains about the lamentable AFL coverage – but the premium we’re paying for our current set-up isn’t on.

    In fact, with the reduction in TransAct costs, we’ll probably be able to afford a decent download cap and the kids will be able to stream stuff that we won’t even consider now.

    As for Foxtel? As others have said, it’d be good if they offered packages that are likely to meet our (AFL) needs – but the premium and dross that comes with it isn’t terribly attractive.

    PayTV is sooooo last millennium.

  • I think you missed one option…
    I’ve got the money and nothing better to do with it.
    I’ve got not time to scour the net or setup Channel BT.
    I want a reason for my friends to come over…
    They offer better Shows and/or newer episodes then free TV….


  • Surely with over 2 million subscribers (as cited above) they could do a broader survey than 300 people. Seems like a total waste of time.

    Anyway to chime in, I have the best of both worlds. Channel BT at home to a server for everyone to share, and my GF has foxtel on which is great for surfing on a hungover Sunday when you aren’t sure what to watch.

  • I wish there was an option for “Because free tv has too many ads”…but sadly somehow we allowed ourselves to be tricked into accepting ads on Pay TV as well.

  • The question was “Why Do You Pay For Pay TV?” but 65% of the poll response and the vast majority of the comments are from people who DON’T pay for pay TV.

    As soon as there is a post about Foxtel/Pay TV loads of people immediately start posting about why they don’t subscribe to it, they just can’t help themselves, I wonder why that is…

  • I do wish that they had a flat rate per channel and that you could choose as many or as little as you like. Then depending on price I might be all over that.

  • Sport is the only reason I have pay TV. They need to add more sports channels so they can show more – there’s hardly any NHL coverage. Fox Sports have the rights and can’t find room for more than 1-2 games a week. Bring in Fox Sports 4. ESPN showed a lot of NHL when they had the rights from 1996-early 00s

  • Sickbeard and ShowRSS keep my regular shows rolling in week to week. Any special shows I grab ad hoc, documentaries for example.
    Getting together a decent back catalogue of shows keeps the wife from asking for Foxtel.
    She loves a channel flick and wants to loop through more than 15 free channels in her free time…hardly worth it for $100/month!

  • Hate sport, hate adds. I only watch The ABC and “source” anything else where I can.
    I’d rather spend the money on High-Speed Broadband.

  • I think it’s all really about convenience. BT is fine, but is an “active” undertaking: you need to search for what you want/need, download, copy to your PC/MAC/HTPC/portable device, and then watch.

    On the other hand, pay-tv is passive: you sit in front of the TV, and search what is showing, and watch.

    I myself download some shows that I like and watch them on the go, but I don’t see neither my wife nor 2 of my 3 kids doing this. I would say that this is a good representation of the populous: 2 out of 5people will actively engage in looking for channel BT media, whereas the other three would just watch what’s out there right out of the box, even if it’s a bit more expensive.

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