A Closer Look At Fetch TV

This afternoon I spent a couple of hours over at Fetch TV headquarters checking out the new IPTV-enabled PVR. I was suitably impressed. Here are some things you should know...

The box is ready to go When you open the box, it comes complete with HDMI and composite cables. It looks pretty much like every other DVR on the market, with a 1TB Seagate HDD for storage, 512MB of RAM and a Broadcom 7413 chipset. It doesn't support Wi-Fi though, so you'll need to work out how to get your ethernet cable from your modem to your box (you'll probably want to go the ethernet over powerline route). Oh, and there's a built in credit card reader, which doesn't do much at all now, but will have potential uses in the future.

It shouldn't suck up all your bandwidth The minimum spec required for the IPTV functionality of the FetchTV box is 3.5Mbps, but at most, FetchTV will only use 2.5Mbps. The hardware is set to use 2Mbps for the linear IPTV channels, while 512Kbps is constantly downloading the VOD content to the hard drive for you to watch later. If you're watching free to air TV and not the linear IPTV channels, you can decide whether or not the box will use that extra 2Mbps for background downloading.

The VOD content is constantly changing As part of the monthly subscription, you get 30 movies per month pushed to your PVR. Seven movies change each week, so there's always fresh content. The TV VOD content varies depending on the channel, but at any time you can expect a few different episodes of each show. The problem is that you can't safe it for later - if you don't watch the show while it's there on your hard drive, you miss out.

That said, the pay per view VOD movie offering is an ever-increasing library, although you only get a limited window to watch the program once you pay for it, just like every other PPV IPTV service.

Facebook while you watch TV Because it's web connected, the PVR supports online widgets, including Facebook and Twitter from launch. YOu can opt to have a pop-up message come up every time you receive a message as well, meaning a more integrated approach to the social networking services than Microsoft did with Xbox. There are also games - things like poker or blackjack in particular - that let you play with other FetchTV users, as well as show leaderboards and other competitive info.

These applications are all free, and have the power to draw on the metadata from the EPG to work more effectively. Like launching IMDB will immediately search for the program you're currently watching, for example.

You'll need BoB to use FetchTV iiNet have a small condition for FetchTV customers - you'll need to be running through a BoB modem router. They say that will probably change in the future, but during the launch window they've decided to restrict access to BoB for quality control.

The pricing is pretty good Originally, the pricing for the FetchTV service was a $30 monthly fee and a $150 install fee. Now, users have the option of buying the box outright for $399 and paying $20 a month for the service, or a $99 install fee and $30 a month for the service. Both options include 15 linear IPTV channels plus five VOD channels with more channels launching (at an additional cost) soon.

Fetch Lite is coming If your Internet service isn't up to handling the FetchTV service, they've also promised to launch a Fetch Lite service in the near future which will only offer the pay per view VOD content, rather than the multicast push content.

Overall thoughts Obviously a couple of hours during a tech demo isn't enough to firm an overall opinion, but I was impressed with what I saw. The content line up is pretty good for the price - especially having 30 movies from a variety of genres included in the price. The service is conditional on your being with the right ISP though, and your connection needs to be up to scratch, but if it is, this is a pretty decent alternative to Foxtel, or a great addition to free to air TV.