Playing Fetch

by on 16/08/11 at 12:42 pm

Playing Fetch
Last year, I talked about Foxtel; the main pay TV provider here in Australia stepping in to IPTV with their Foxtel on Xbox 360 service. From my other post, you can see this didn’t go so well for them. Well, there’s another player in the industry now and they try very hard to be the IPTV we want, but just not enough.

My ISP, iiNet, are currently offering a 3 month trial of the FetchTV service. I decided to take them up on this offer, just to see what it was like. The problems started as soon as I got my set top box. iiNet only support specific modems with their FetchTV service, before I received my box I was still using a different modem as that was more reliable. When the box came, I was going to switch over to their recommended one, set it up the same and away I would go with the new TV service.

I asked iiNet to deliver the box to my work as I didn’t expect to be home when it would be delivered, however, on this day I was. It was delivered to my work and all of a sudden at home, I was disconnected from the Internet. I had no idea why so I called iiNet. This is the only time I have ever had bad customer service with them (even with the DSL debacle they still gave me good service). If they just looked at their notes, they would know the issue, but no, they insisted it was something I did. Even though I didn’t change anything. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that when they get confirmation of the FetchTV box delivery, they disable PPPoE on your account. Thus rendering my old, reliable, modem useless. I plugged in my BoB modem (the one they support) and my net was instantly back up, using Bridged mode instead of PPPoE. The problem with this, however, is that I can’t disable NAT and actually have a proper connection (I have another router that handles NAT, the border one routes direct). Apparently they’re still working on this, well, thanks for telling me.

After calling in to work and picking up my set top box, I got home and plugged it in. All was going well in the setup, I typed in my activation key and away it went. I looked at some of the channels, they loaded much faster than Foxtel on 360 and were much better quality. There aren’t that many channels on FetchTV, but that’s understandable considering it’s less than a third of the cost of the full Foxtel subscription. Fetch also mixes in the free-to-air channels with their own pay channels. They also advertise the features of the PVR as a compelling reason to get the service.

Now, my issues here are not with the Fetch service itself. They are with the set top box and how it works. I have had no end of issues with it. First off, there’s no 30-second skip button. Now I know this is because Fetch get their free-to-air EPG data from the Freeview service and they don’t allow PVRs with a 30-second skip button. But the Freeview EPG is horrible. We use DVB-T here in Australia, it comes with an in-band EPG. It is always more accurate than the crappy Freeview one. Shows regularly run overtime on the free networks here. The in-band EPG normally reflects any last-minute changes in scheduling. Of course, this affects any recordings you have scheduled. Because Fetch does not use the most recent information available, I am constantly forced to set it to record up to 30 minutes after the episode is scheduled to end, just to be safe.

Aside from the EPG are other terrible design decisions. The box comes with apps. These apps are made by Fetch and the ISP you get the service from. They are, to put it simply, horrible. Take the Twitter app as an example. I went to sign in to it and realised that I would have to use a T9 keypad to enter my details, even though there was an on-screen keyboard presented to me when I originally entered my activation key for the service. Now, for someone with an extremely complex password that I don’t even remember (I auto-generate and use Lastpass), this is near on impossible to accomplish. Not to mention there is no backspace button! When you don’t know a password that you’re entering, you can’t see the characters and it’s very long, you tend to make mistakes often. I had to go back and re-enter the damn thing over and over before I was sure I got it right. I pressed the login button and was told it was incorrect. So I entered it again, and again, and again. I then decided to go on Whirlpool to complain about this horrible decision to use the T9 keypad instead of a logical on-screen keyboard and found that people were told that the Twitter service didn’t even work! Well, again, thanks for telling me.

The problems don’t end there though. I have my Fetch box hooked up to my TV through HDMI and my receiver through optical TOSLINK. For some reason, that I am yet to understand. In the middle of the night I am woken by the damn box turning back on and blasting me with whatever happens to be on at the time. Even though I have set the volume on the box to be the lowest, tried muting, etc. I have had to resort to turning my receiver off just so I’m not woken up by it doing whatever the hell it wants to.

I think I can safely say that once my 3 month trial is near completion, I will be handing this box back and saying no thanks. As I have said, the service is good, the implementation is horribly bad.

Rating: 2/5★★☆☆☆ 

  • Simon Hunter-Ward

    Make certain that you end your subscription prior to the 3 month trial end date, so as to avoid the automated renewal of the service as a paid subscription. I read about this on another review of the FetchTV trial… the same trick that alot of service providers (yes Foxtel, I’m looking at you) use to snare customers.
    It can be a real pain in the arse to get a provider to refund the subscription when you finally realise that you have been netted.
    I’m also with iiNet and have always had great service from them. However, when an issue comes down to a technical problem where there isn’t a clean-cut solution for it, their staff tend to throw up the “There is nothing I can do / must be something wrong with your setup” card. The best thing to do is to just ask them to escalate the issue to their supervisor (which I am sure that you have done yourself, by the sounds of it).
    IPTV is still very immature here in Australia, and there really isn’t that much of an advantage to having it. You are paying a premium to just double the number of TV channels, that show the same standard of crap, and which are broadcast at times that are still inconvenient to watch!
    No, I don’t think that PVRs are a worthwhile solution, as it is once again making the consumer pay for the networks desire to not redesign their archaic business model into something that has a real customer focus. Why do you think that so many people are now turning to Channel BT?

  • Simon Hunter-Ward

    Just read this on Lifehacker and couldn’t resist sharing… Could any of these change your mind? LOL

    The Next 12 Things FetchTV Is Adding

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately none of those new features address the problems I have had. While they do add a little more value to the service, it’s really not enough.

  • Jesse Somer

    Your experience sounds horrible. If you don’t recommend FetchTV or Foxtel via XBox 360, what do you see as the best Internet TV option? I have a friend who won’t shut up about how great TiVO is, and a number of our customers use AppleTV. Of course the majority of people still use Foxtel through a coaxial cable connection, but it is quite expensive for a full subscription. Which direction should the average person take if they don’t want to spend a lot of money, but they want a good Internet TV experience?

    Jesse, Compare Broadband

  • poedgirl

    Personally, I can’t really recommend any service for reliable IPTV in Australia. As I said in the article, the service for Fetch is great, however, the box seriously lets it down. If we had a better designed box with software that actually worked, it would be great.

    That said, the main problem still is the lack of content. This is mainly because Foxtel hordes most of the channels. I just wish we could get a system like the US where any TV operator could come along and purchase channels they want to offer their customers, instead of being limited to just a small handful like Fetch has.

    As for set top boxes, I would have to recommend the Boxee Box. While most of the content for it is US based, it does still have a lot of options for Australians. The Revision3 app on it is excellent. Pair it with a VPN as well and you’ll get all of the US content too.

  • poedgirl


  • Matthew Taber

    yeah thats why tivo folded they are no longer here in Aust