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Foxtel launches Next Generation service

Foxtel launched its re-branded "Next Generation" service in Sydney today in a lavish "rocket-themed" event with 30 new channels, a handful of new services and updated pricing.

Foxtel launched its re-branded "Next Generation" service in Sydney today in a lavish "rocket-themed" event where it outlined 30 new channels, a handful of new services and updated pricing.

Foxtel executives including Patrick Delany (right) sit at ground zero during Foxtel's "launch". (Credit: Zennith Geisler)

Foxtel CEO Kim Williams hosted the event, which he said detailed "the biggest set of changes since the advent of Foxtel Digital in 2004".

Many of the changes will occur on 15 November, but some will occur from 1 October including Foxtel Download.

Foxtel Download offers "catch-up" TV and ESPN streaming, which will be available from 1 October. Foxtel's executive director of content, product & delivery innovation Patrick Delany sees Foxtel Download as the precursor to an IPTV service, which is due to be introduced in 2010.

Foxtel Download includes material from 38 channels including Fox 8, MTV, Comedy and Discovery, and will be compatible with PC only.

All new customers will now be offered an iQ set-top box (with a choice of iQ or the HD-capable iQ2) and be able to choose their own plans starting with basic, or go for one of the new iQ Value packs starting from AU$72 (including iQ rental).

Despite initial reports, Foxtel will continue to offer the "Get Started" package at the new price of AU$42 (from AU$40), plus rental costs.

The 12 new standard-definition channels are LifeStyle You (women's and inspirational programming), 13th Street (crime), The Style Network, Eurosport, KidsCo, FMC, Starpics, Showtime Action, Showtime Comedy, Showtime Drama, Discovery Turbo MAX, and Nat Geo Wild.

As CNET Australia previewed last week, there will be 10 new HD channels including four dedicated sports channels (Fox 1, 2 and 3, and ESPN) plus six movie channels.

Delaney said the company had worked on the Next Generation product for the last two years with the aim of producing a product with good value for money.

"Look at HD today: you used to get five channels for 15 bucks, now you get 15 for 16 bucks. So we're trying to cram the value down. At the end of the day price is one thing, but I think customers can see value," he said.

The Foxtel program guide will receive an overhaul on 15 November, and will include picture-in-picture of live broadcasts and recorded program previews. Customers will also be able to customise the guide to their own needs with up to 50 channels included.

Foxtel's Delaney said there was a "modest search" facility included but added that "smart text searches will be next — within the next 12 months".

A new feature called iSuggest will give customers a cover-art gallery of 200 movie and TV titles through which customers can navigate and record with the press of a button. This feature, similar to "Press Red For More" which was unveiled last week, is where a Green icon will appear in the corner of the TV during show promos and pressing the Green button will mean that show is automatically recorded.

For more information on features and pricing visit Foxtel from 1 October.

A selection of pricing from the new plans. (Credit: Foxtel)