In principle, the idea of legal movie and TV show downloads from Foxtel is a welcome one, because it paves the way for the market to grow. So while there's room for a lot of improvement, the best news here is that there's room in the first place. For improvement. In the meantime, here's 10 things you should know about the service, complete with suckage ratings.
1. It's free for subscribers. If you are a Foxtel customer, you qualify. Suckage factor? 1-star suckage. It's a value-add. And an OK one at that. Perhaps in the future, Foxtel will branch out as a VOD service, independent of pay subscriptions. That would be better.
2. You must use the Foxtel player. After registering, you download the player to, err... manage your downloads. Suckage factor? 3-star suckage. On the one hand, we can understand that the player would lock in your usage of the download and that Foxtel has an obligation to protect copyright and respect licensing arrangements and so on. On the other hand, what if the player sucks? What if you would just prefer that it dovetailed with your preferred media manager? Tough.
3. Mac-using Foxtel subscriber? You're out of luck. The player is Windows only. Suckage factor? 5-star suckage. No explanation required.
4. Downloaded content will expire. Foxtel states that: "...content does expire, depending on the licensing agreement for each individual program". Suckage factor? 3-star suckage. Confusion may reign. Program "A" expires in 7 days. Program "B" expires in 14 days. I have to track this? That said, you can watch a program or movie as many times as you like within 7 days of the initial viewing. Because you want to watch sitcom re-runs 100 times in 7 days.
5. Foxtel Box Office. The only applicable charge is for Foxtel Box Office pay-per-view movies, which cost $5.50. Suckage factor? 2-star suckage. FBO's pay-per-view is a well-established service. I just have a problem with Foxtel saying that Foxtel Download is a free service, then slugging you for FBO. Bait and switch, anyone? Well, perhaps not... after all, they are being up front about it.
6. Huge selection of programming. 38 channels, more than 400 hours of TV programming and movies to choose from. Suckage factor? 0-suckage. Lots of content. More than you could download. What's to complain about? Add three stars if the content sucks.
7. 24-hour support. Available via the Foxtel Download site. Instant messaging Live Chat service from noon to midnight. From midnight to noon, help via email. Suckage factor. Nil. Fair enough.
8. Five new Download-only channels. Showtime Family, Showtime Drama, Movie Action, Movie Drama, and Movie Comedy. Suckage factor? Nil. They're bringing something extra to the table for downloaders. Can't complain about that. Add 1 star if these "new channels" are just re-badged existing channels.
9. "Amazing Quality". The Foxtel Download Player plays back sound and picture quality equivalent to Foxtel broadcast quality. Suckage factor. 1-star suckage. But only because there are no details on bit-rate and resolution. So we'll see about that.
10. Download at your own expense. You will use your own bandwidth to download. On your own broadband account. Suckage factor? 4-star suckage. Suddenly, free is not free. If you aim to download even a portion of the aforementioned 400+ hours of content, you're going to use a large part of whatever monthly download limit you may have in place with your ISP. Here's where the most room for improvement lies, and we wouldn't be surprised to see ISPs, especially Telstra, come on board with an unmetered service. Our good friends at Lifehacker have an interesting take on this, which you can check out here.
Tomorrow, Foxtel Download will go live. I don't have Foxtel. And I use a Mac. So I'm down on two counts. PC-using subscribers should let us know how it unfolds for them.