As streaming services hit fever pitch in Australia, Foxtel has announced a major overhaul and redesign of its iQ set-top box system with the release of iQ3.
The new set-top box offers an update on both hardware and software that ditches all things linear. Not only is the interface far more image-driven than the grids of program titles seen in iQHD, but the content-viewing experience is also designed for modern users who are eschewing the set timing of traditional TV programming.
Designed to "seamlessly" bring together live broadcast TV, catch-up, IPTV and video-on-demand, the update marks the first major iQ hardware release for Foxtel since 2008, and brings the pay TV provider in-step with a customer base that is demanding a different content experience.
Underpinning the iQ3 system is a new user interface that completely does away with the older grid-style EPG display of iQHD, in favour of a image-focused "poster cover flow" design. According to Foxtel Head of Managed Products Nick Dandy, the company has pulled together design cues from Foxtel Play, Foxtel Go and Presto to create a more streamlined look across its services.
Starting from a Home screen hub, users can flick through "Suggested" movies and TV shows, recommended based on their Foxtel subscription package and viewing habits, and even geared towards a particular time of day.
The electronic program guide is still there, but you'll find full program titles, complete with a progress bar showing how much of the program has elapsed (meaning there's no more flicking around trying to see the name of an almost-finished show). Users will see what's "On Now" and "On Next", and a "Start Over" feature is available on certain shows allowing you to stream the full program from the beginning via the internet.
The result is an experience that allows users to still watch regular scheduled programming, but as Foxtel's Head of Product Customer Experience Harris Hutkin says, it's also about "customers being able to sit on the couch and watch TV, even if they don't know what they want to watch."
The hardware has been upgraded too, with Wi-Fi connectivity, a Bluetooth remote that doesn't require line-of-sight with the box to change channels, and eight built-in tuners allowing you to record three programs and watch a fourth.
While the look and feel may be Foxtel Play or Go, the pay TV provider has actually baked plenty more inside iQ3, bringing together a variety of viewing formats into one streamlined experience. And while you won't find Presto on the interface, being able to choose between watching a live broadcast, recording for later, catching up on pre-recorded shows from your library or streaming via IPTV offers plenty of viewing options.
iQ3 will be available from today for both new and existing customers. The set-top box itself will set you back AU$125, with an additional AU$25 for a self-install kit or AU$75 for installation by a Foxtel technician. This is over and above your Foxtel subscription, which starts at AU$300 for 12 months. Existing customers can upgrade via My Account or by calling Foxtel to arrange payment, while new customers can pay for and receive iQ3 when they sign up.