More than a PVR and Less than Foxtel IQ
FetchTV is iiNets entry into the pay tv market. Going up against heavy weights like Foxtel and Telstra may not seem like a sensible plan but iiNet may be onto something here. It makes use of the spare capacity in the network and provides iiNet with a whole new revenue stream. At it’s most basic FetchTV is a PVR – Personal Video Recorder – with the addition of internet delivered content. What iiNet have achieved is to provide the basics for a good price , in a more strategic sense they have aimed at a gap in the market, fill that gap iiNet. At the moment this is most evident in the collection of European soccer channels and world wide news channels. Don’t replicate Foxtel, go for the parts of the market they have ignored.
Technical experts have gone to great lengths to show Fetch is not an IPTV or internet streamer. Instead it makes use of dark fibre – unused parts of the optic network – and IP Multicast TV over the Agile direct ADSL2+ network. So there is specific infrastructure in place to shift the bits where as your typical IPTV setup just uses the standard internet backbone to shift the information about.
FetchTV is a very standard looking component that should blend in with most peoples entertainment systems, it plays it very safe here. It’s like that guy in the office who people know but they can never put a name to his face. FetchTV could blend into a crowd. The back side contains the outputs to link FetchTV to your entertainment system. HDMI, Component Video Out, Composite A/V, Antenna In/Out, Network, Optical and S-Video.
Functionality of FetchTV can be broken into PVR and VOD – Video On Demand. All channels can use the Record, Play, Pause and Rewind functions, including the Internet delivered content. There are three tuners – for free to air - allowing you to record two shows while watching another. Additional channels – internet delivered – available above and beyond the free to air channels include; BBC World News, Discovery Turbo, Discovery Science, National Geographic, MTV Networks, Fox International Channels, E! Entertainment Television, CNBC, ABC, Roadshow Entertainment, Disney Media Distribution and MGM. Also available are a selection of Radio Stations, 30 Movies that change regularly and pay per view -VOD – Movies similar to the new release section of a video shop. Widgets are also available to the user, Facebook, Twitter and simple games are already present.
The EPG – Electronic Program Guide - is available anytime for all stations included in the package. Most of the PVR program recording is done here, with its simple and quick interface I had no troubles hunting around for things to record and watch.
The interface in general is basic grey theme, its easy to read and quick to get used to. Again like its external design the user interface seems to be trying to be inoffensive, so its pretty low on the bling. Show/Movie covers and previews are all integrated and loads of details are available. Very usable and clean interface, just not much character.
One of the major advantages that FetchTV has at the moment is that no landlord permission or new wall plugs are required. As long as you have a DSL connection you should be able to get fetch - check with iiNet to be sure. Also Doesn’t eat into you download limit.
The picture quality of the extra channels is excellent, it’s definitely Hi-Def and super smooth. Changing between channels is quick and seamless even when switching between free and Internet channels.
For people who live in Digital TV dead spots or if your simply don’t have an external antenna then FetchTV as it is won’t work. It requires an antenna to tune in the free to air. iiNet has hinted that it will re-broadcast the free channels over the broadband connection in the future, this would solve the problem completely. There is no ability to play networked media at all, this is a closed box so you wont be able to easily transfer tv shows to the pc or view movies stored on your PC using FetchTV. So it’s not so much a convergence device as a new set top box.
I really liked FetchTV, the picture was excellent, interface was simple and the whole package works well together. It is a good start against the established players. Although it’s not a complete media solution in a box it does the basics well while keeping it at a very reasonable price. – $19.95 or $29.95 a month. There is already talk of firmware upgrades, new functions – no word on hacking yet -. Now if only they could get a rugby channel the Fox box could get the flick.
UPDATE: There are a number of reports of the FetchTV box slowing down over time. These problems are currently being put into the teething problem basket, hopefully if people experiencing these issues can highlight them to iiNet they should be resolved soon.
Pictures courtesy of iiNet