September 30, 2009

Television Drug of the Nation

It has recently been grating on me that I pay a television distribution company aka Foxtel almost $100 a month for a Service. Events of this week have finally made me consider whether this is good value or not.

Last Saturday I sat down to watch the AFL Grand Final (only available on Channel 10) to discover none of the Free to Air Channels were being received by my Foxtel Box. Panic Ensued!
Frustrated calls to support (x 3) followed my own attempts to reset the box. The first call was reasonably pleasant (protip: keep pressing 0 on the IVR to get straight through to tech support), he explained the problem, got me to do a few things and then sent a signal to my box. It didn't work. The Call dropped out.

I was in Limbo.

Apparently the reason was that all the Free to Air Channels had been 'resynced' on the cable to a different frequency and Foxtel weren't responsible for it. REMEMBER THE LAST PART OF THAT LAST SENTENCE.

So I called back and this time tried the IVR. It sent a signal and then told me to call back if the signal didn't change anything. It didn't work, I called back.

This time I went straight to a person. I let loose on him because he claimed 'Foxtel only rebroadcast the Free to Air Channels and weren't responsible for the problem' (Sound familiar?) and a technician would need to come to the house with a next available date which met our availability of TEN DAYS FROM NOW! Think of it, NO LATELINE FOR A WEEK AND A HALF!!!
So rather than go on about my rant to him, here are my key points of contention
  • Foxtel KNEW there were changes on the service which MIGHT affect some customers negatively.
  • Foxtel CHOSE not to communicate that with customers. Indeed Foxtel NEVER communicate service problems with the customer
  • Foxtel in choosing to not communicate detrimental service issues with a Customer have no qualms in sending Prostitution Style Direct Mails to customers
  • Foxtel claim the Free to Air Channels on the Service are NOT a part of the service' they 'just rebroadcast them'. Protip Foxtel, if you are going to deliver something, you take responsibility for it. If you aren't going to take responsibility, get out of town.
It should be said I have fear each time mention of a Foxtel Technician visiting my house is made. Previous house visits, in the 4 years we've had the service here, have turned into Episodes of Mr. Bean. Examples include;
  • three faulty cable installations across a busy road;
  • the cable getting taken out by trucks on each faulty installation,
  • causing damage to my house (twice) having to be repaired by us and claimed, by us, against OUR insurance
  • most hilariously, when the technician turned up thinking he was doing an install and would be done in 15 minutes (yep, they really DON'T leave notes on the account to assist Service calls),
  • faulty phone line installed which, when Foxtel is plugged into it, takes my ADSL out. That is, NOT slowing it down, but disconnecting it.

So is it time to change? Do I really need to pain, especially the expensive ongoing costs and the ridiculously frustrating Support each time you have to go near it?

So lets look at the evidence, and bear in mind there IS an emotional attachment to the record function. Especially when you love live Football and Rugby, especially that type which normally plays in the Middle of the Night here in Australia.

Channels watched on a Regular (i.e. AT LEAST once a week) Basis;
  • Fox Sports 1, 2, 3, SBSHD, ABCHD, ABC2, Setanta, UKTV, Nick Jr, BBC Kids ummm actually that is pretty much it
  • Number of those channels which I get on Free to Air: 3 (or around 40%)
  • Number of those channels which I can watch the content from online: At least 1 (setanta, and perhaps more)
So that leaves half the channels I watch regularly as ones which I can only get from Foxtel (or Optus if possible), so lets see what I really want to watch on those channels
  • Fox Sports;
    AFL (just out of season), English Football, errm Rugby? Not much else really.
    With AFL, a good selection of it is on Free to Air, admittedly I'd have to put up with Ads during the game. With EPL, well the only way you can those games Broadcast in Australia is on Fox Sports.
  • UKTV;
    Me missus watches Eastenders. Pretty much everything else on it will be on ABC or SBS sometime before or after it appears on UKTV. Not to mention ALL being available on either iView or even the iTunes Store sometimes even before it is broadcast
  • Nick Jr/BBC Children;
    Kids Stuff. Much of which will be on ABC1/2 (and 3 when it launches later this year).
    Also, and you should know what small kids are like, they'll watch the same DVD OVER AND OVER for weeks. This is where the Quickflix subscription comes in handy as well as the local library and just buying DVD's or on the iTunes Store (A season of Dora will cost me less than a months Foxtel Subscription there)

So my challenge is, do I NEED to pay about $1000 per year for a Few Football matches and Eastenders.

What do I need to do if I choose not to pay the Grand?

  1. Get a Digital Aerial in my house. One of the main reasons why we got Foxtel was because there was no Aerial on the house and it was actually cheaper in the short term to get Foxtel in (and beside the fact, when you got babies and can't go out too much, having a good selection of Channels was a good idea). Cost: $400 or a bit more
  2. Upgrade my Quickflix Subscription to get more DVD's every month I currently pay $19.95 per month, but I can update that to $26.95 per month and get an extra two DVD's. (Oh and the new 'bring my bill date forward' feature is cool. If you use up all your DVD's in a month you just reset your plan and pay for the next month a few days earlier)
  3. Buy a few Kids DVD's. Bargain Bin stuff would keep us going for months when combined with ABC and what we have already. Maybe $100
  4. Get an Eastenders feed for my better half. And EPL for me. I know iinet show EPL games Live and On Demand, but I think it is a small selection AND you need Silverlight on your computer to do so. But hey, I'll put up with the Pain.

Sounds to me like I'd spend maybe $500 or so upfront followed by regular uplift of $25 to $30 per month. Take away the ~$100 I currently pay Foxtel each month and the likelihood of that continuing to rise, then perhaps the Economics of it is already saying. DO IT NOW! Even without considering the reasons I was thinking of it in the First Place.

Oh and by the way, I listened to the First Half of the Grand Final on good old ABC radio and went to the Pub for the Second Half. The Pub to watch sport? Now that seems normal

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