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An excerpt from my working script for this week’s Ozhoops Radio, as I gave my thoughts on Foxtel Now (Foxtel’s no-contract internet streaming service) and how it compares to its predecessor.I resubscribed to Foxtel Now for the opening of the NBL season- that’s the Foxtel internet service where you don’t need a satellite dish and don’t have a contract. It isn’t as good as ‘real’ Foxtel but if the differences aren’t a dealbreaker you might well find it worthwhile.

I had two problems with it a few years ago. The first issue was that the picture quality was terrible- it was barely SD on my ADSL connection, so after you’ve been watching stuff in high definition for a while SD is almost unwatchable. And that wasn’t my connection- HD content was simply unavailable, because I could get NBA League Pass and NHL TV in high-definition with no hassles. That hasn’t been totally fixed now- not all channels have a high-definition feed, and the movie channels aren’t available in HD on the desktop, but all the sports channels appear to work fine. And Showcase does, so I can watch the new season of Mr Robot.

…at least, you can get HD if you have the right hardware. At the moment, you have to have either a Chromecast, a Telstra TV box (and the contracts that are attached to it), a PlayStation 4, or be using Google Chrome and watching the service on a computer. There are other devices that can access Foxtel Now, but they don’t appear to have access to the HD service, and there isn’t any advice on some of those devices getting updates. I don’t think my smart TV’s inbuilt Foxtel app will get an update (even though it’s a Sony and not a smaller brand), but the lack of updates to some other widespread platforms (such as Xbox One) might be a concern. Oh yeah- and when I said you need to use Chrome on the desktop, I mean ‘need’- you can’t even sign up for the service from another browser.

The other issue was the cost. If you want the NBA and you aren’t much interested in Australian sport, NBA League Pass per year is about half the price of Foxtel Now, and League Pass has a much wider variety of games, choice of commentary teams (including other languages on some devices), and no ads. The price of Foxtel Now has actually dropped slightly- it was $50 a month before with the sports package, and it’s now $45- so while this issue hasn’t been solved, it is slightly better than it used to be, and if you can get HD you might feel it represents even better value.

They did do one thing this year that annoyed me, though- I am a bit of a news junkie, and a few channels disappeared when Foxtel rejigged the channel packages earlier this year. In particular if you want news channels you can now only get Uncle Rupert’s news services, Sky News and Fox News US. BBC World News, CNN, CNBC and Eurosport News were all removed from the service in June, and if you feel like paying for Foxtel’s Movies service they also dropped SBS’ World Movies Channel from the lineup, although these are all still on the satellite service if you get ‘real’ Foxtel.

But I think the service is much better now- especially from a sports perspective, with better picture quality and a reduced cost. There is a two-week trial available if you want to check it out, just in time for the new season of Mr Robot.