This week, IPTV service FetchTV is adding the YouTube on TV interface, making it simpler to browse YouTube videos via your TV set. That's just one of a host of new options FetchTV is planning over the next year, including a full HD channel, access to iView, iPhone and Android apps and lots of other goodies.
Lifehacker met up with FetchTV CEO Scott Lorson this week to see the new YouTube interface demonstrated and catch up with what else is being added to the service. Here are a dozen to look out for.
1. YouTube on TV integration
The YouTube On TV option (formerly known as YouTube Leanback) customises YouTube to make it more accessible via TV, minimising the need to use a keyboard. The app includes a stream of currently-popular videos, with priority given to footage available in 720p resolution. You can also enter searches via an on-screen keyboard or using a separate Bluetooth keyboard. Search results are shown in a left-to-right scrolling list, and recent searches are retained for easy access. The option should become available to FetchTV customers this week.
2. Additional ISP partners
FetchTV is already sold via iiNet, Westnet and Internode. Next week it will go on sale through Netspace (also owned by iiNet), and through Adam Internet "very shortly", Lorson said. Optus will also begin selling the service "soon", and TPG seems likely as well — which means FetchTV will be available through virtually every large ISP other than Telstra, which is pushing its own T-Box alternative (as well as having a share in Foxtel).
3. Rotten Tomatoes ratings
Movies (both rentals and those available as part of the free selection for all subscribers) will include a tab with Rotten Tomatoes critic and user ratings within the next month.
4. iView and other online catch-up channels
The ABC's iView service remains the catch-up option to beat, so its addition to FetchTV's suite is welcome. "We will be launching iView shortly," Lorson said — an unsurprising development given the ABC's demonstrated willingness to work with other partners such as TV manufacturers. Other channels are also in the offing, though with a less clear time frame: "We are in discussions on 7Plus and FixPlay."
5. Android and iPhone remote apps
Within two months or so, FetchTV expects to launch iPhone, iPad and Android apps which will let you use your device as a remote, both for actively using the device and for remotely scheduling recordings. Using a phone is particularly useful for search-oriented tasks such as finding YouTube videos.
One feature Lorson is keen to see added is automatically navigating on a tablet device to content related to what you're currently watching (such as displaying the current recipe while you're watching MasterChef. "If you're using this as a remote control and we know what you're watching, we can bring up that content," he said.
6. Unmetered access to YouTube and iView
While FetchTV's ISP partners offer access to its channels in unmetered form, the same won't apply to YouTube initially — viewing there will be counted separately, and a warning will be displayed to remind viewers that's the case. However, in the long term Lorson expects this will also be able to be added to the unmetered list. "We are working with our ISP partners to unmeter YouTube, and to unmeter iView as well."
7. Individual viewing suggestions
Right now, FetchTV offers up the same selection of show and movie suggestions for everyone, but that will soon be adjusted dynamically to reflect your past viewing habits. "We're probably 90 days away from tailoring that home page to a particular user's behaviour," Lorson said. "To get there you have to create the real estate and have a customer mangement system, which we already do, and then it's just about plugging in the policy rules and the relevance engines, and that's what we're currently doing.
8. Better social media integration
Once the mobile phone apps are released, a development focus for FetchTV will be offering better integration of social networking tools with the viewing experience. "We are working on a lot of social networking apps that will let you comment on shows," Lorson said. That could include the ability to track tags for a particular show translucently on screen.
9. Speedier channel changing
FetchTV already has a pretty impressive speed for accessing program info while channel-surfing — in the demonstration, it certainly looked faster than my Foxtel IQ box, which has a notable lag. Further enhancements are coming, Lorson said: "We've got developments in hand that will take it down another 40 per cent."
10. Even more foreign-language channels
FetchTV already offers seven different foreign language packs, with Mandarin and Hindi packs particularly popular. Lorson predicts that within six months, the service will offer more than 200 overseas channels.
11. Independent living apps
Lorson visualises devices like the FetchTV box being central in providing NBN-powered applications to assist in scenarios such as using games consoles to provide exercise and balance practice for the elderly. It has already run tests connecting its network to the dance pad application for seniors demonstrated at the Kiama NBN launch.
12. A suite of HD channels
Lorson says an HD-centric package of channels is due "early next year", though he didn't offer any specifics beyond saying: "We do have the ability to do true HD-quality video."