'Telstra TV' Roku box for Telstra broadband only

Telstra is bringing Roku to Australia, but the telco has confirmed that "Telstra TV" will only be available to home broadband customers, and spells the quiet end of the T-Box.

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Claire Reilly
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Telstra has announced a new partnership to bring Roku to Australia. Telstra

Telstra has confirmed it will bring a new media streaming box to Australia in partnership with Roku, but only Telstra home broadband customers are going to be able to get their hands on the device.

The company announced the news today in a blog post, saying it would launch the Roku set-top streaming device in Australia in September, branded as Telstra TV. The partnership with the US-based company will also see Telstra stop manufacturing and selling its existing T-Box digital set top box once Telstra TV launches, though the telco has confirmed that it will "continue to support the T-Box with content."

Explaining the company's launch strategy for Telstra TV, group managing director of media and marketing Joe Pollard said the telco planned to "launch with Telstra broadband customers as the key channel to market."

"We may expand it to Telstra mobile customers at a later date, but at the moment we're 100 percent focused on bundling it with our broadband customer base," she said.

The arrival of Telstra TV comes at a busy time in the streaming video space in Australia. The market has exploded this year with the arrival of Netflix and the launch of local services Stan and Presto, all of which will feature as apps on Telstra's Roku device.

The fight for subscribers has become hotter than ever, particularly for legacy player Foxtel, which has dropped prices aggressively in the face of new streaming competitors. As a Foxtel stakeholder, this Telstra TV launch could be seen as a move by Telstra to hedge its bets should the scales tip out of Foxtel's favour in future.

However, while Foxtel is strongly integrated into the current T-Box, offering over 90 channels and on-demand options from the pay TV provider, Telstra TV will not stream Foxtel at launch. Foxtel Play, the app that allows users to stream live and catch-up pay TV via the internet, also won't be available on Telstra TV, though the telco says that may be an option in future.

According to Pollard, Telstra sees Telstra TV "as a complement to Foxtel."

We will obviously work with Foxtel in the future if there are any plans or they want to see [Telstra TV] as a device to distribute content. There's no reason why we wouldn't consider something. But at the moment we're focused on the video streaming services.

[Telstra TV] is a different proposition in that it's really an aggregator platform for the on-demand streaming services of either catch-up from the free-to-airs or your streaming services for Presto, Stan and Netflix. Obviously Presto is the Foxtel product we are featuring strongly on the Telstra TV device.

Unlike deals Netflix has struck with Optus and iiNet, Telstra also has no intention to offer unmetered streaming for its new content device. But Pollard is not bothered by the content deals offered by rival telcos, noting that Telstra has also wooed new customers by doubling data on its broadband plans over the past 12 months.

One of the key selling points for Roku in the US has been its fully customisable interface and the fact that it does not prioritise certain content types over others -- users can switch apps around on their home screen and even delete the icons they don't want. There's no word yet on whether Telstra will lock down any preferred apps onto it its iteration of the streaming device.

Pollard said Roku had honed a good user experience and that Telstra had no intentions of "messing with something that's working already very well." However, she did say that Telstra TV would have "Australian-specific experiences" and that Telstra would be able to program the device to "promote different content at different times of the day on the home screen."

Despite this, Pollard said Telstra's exclusivity deal didn't mean Roku's self-styled "open platform" would be locked down from its first day in Australia.

"It's very open. It's open to all Telstra customers," she said.

The full complement of apps and Telstra TV functionality is set to be announced on September 10.