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  • Gadgets, Intellectual Property, Internet, News - Written by on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:47 - 39 Comments

    Locked down: Foxtel blocks non-Samsung
    Android, jailbroken Apple devices

    error-foxtel

    news Pay TV giant Foxtel this week blocked those Australians using non-Samsung Android and jailbroken Apple iOS devices from accessing its flagship mobile IPTV streaming app Go, in moves that seem destined to reinforce the company’s reputation for setting strong restrictions on how customers can access its content.

    In a media release issued yesterday, Foxtel revealed that it had finally launched its Go app — which allows Foxtel subscribers to access content when they’re away from their primary cable connection — across what it describes as a “host of new devices” — including what it said were “select” Samsung Android smartphones and tablets, as well as PC and Mac computers. Simultaneously, the company said it had upped the number of devices that customers could register to use Foxtel Go, from two to three. Foxtel Go was already available for Apple’s iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

    Jim Rudder, Foxtel Executive Director of Product said: “we’re really pleased with the response we’ve had since Foxtel Go launched late last year. Through our innovation, Foxtel continues to add value for our subscribers and the increase in the number and type of devices consumers can use to access it goes a long way towards delivering on our promise to help even more customers enjoy Foxtel in the home or on the move.”

    However, it immediately became apparent that the company’s pledge to bring Foxtel Go to Android devices was not as comprehensive as some had assumed. In the fine print associated with Foxtel’s media release on the issue, the company noted that its Android app would only run on a very limited set of devices — and all from Samsung: The Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Note II or the Galaxy Note 10.1. In addition, customers will not be able to download the Foxtel Go app through Google’s Play store, but instead only through Samsung’s own Apps store, which is little used by Android users.

    The move immediately locks out users of other Android devices from using Foxtel Go, including customers of brands popular in Australia, including HTC, as well as other less-popular brands such as Sony, LG, Samsung, ASUS, Huawei and others. And it also locks many Samsung users out of using the app — including even those using the company’s new Galaxy S4 handset, currently one of the top-selling smartphones in Australia. Foxtel’s move also locks those using some of the most popular Android tablets — Google’s Nexus 7 and 10 models — out of its content ecosystem.

    Android-focused websites such as AusDroid have immediately posted workarounds for the issue, but it is unclear to what extent Foxtel will be able to block these kinds of technical fixes on its end.

    Simultaneously, it has become apparent that Foxtel has also blocked Australian customers using jailbroken iOS devices from accessing Foxtel Go. Many Australians jailbreak their smartphones or tablets in an effort to gain additional functionality which Apple and other manufacturers have blocked customers from using. The practice of jailbreaking is common in Australia, although it is unclear how legal it is.

    “Foxtel has just blocked access to its Foxtel Go service on Jailbroken iOS devices,” an anonymous tipster wrote in an email to Delimiter overnight. The tipster included the above screenshot of what had occurred when they had tried to watch Foxtel on their smartphone. “There was no warning of this. It just happened with the latest update, 1.7. This is a mandatory update too. You can’t run an older version; it just tells you to update if you do.”

    Foxtel has posted a comment on Facebook about the issue, stating: “Foxtel Go on jailbroken phones has been restricted to ensure our content, and that of our channel partners, has the best protection.” However, the company is currently fielding a number of complaints about the issue on its Facebook channel.

    The news comes as Foxtel has recently pledged to open up its next generation of services to more customers, with the company’s chief executive Richard Freudenstein giving a major speech in March this year pledging to realign the company’s operations to better meet the needs of young people and those who are used to different models of accessing content via the open Internet.

    However, the company has also taken other steps recently to lock down content online. In mid-May, Foxtel confirmed reports that it will block the remaining seasons of HBO’s popular Game of Thrones series from being offered in Australia hours after the show is released in the US, due to an exclusive deal with the show’s producer HBO signed in October last year.

    The deal effectively means that the immediately concluded season 3 of Game of Thrones, as well as the most recent season of the similarly popular vampire drama True Blood — will be the last that will be available in Australia in a timely fashion through IPTV platforms such as iTunes, for individual purchase hours after each episode of the shows air in the US. Fans will eventually still be able to buy the shows online — but only after each season has finished, with Foxtel having a local monopoly on timely viewing of each episode.

    A Foxtel spokesperson did not return calls yesterday or today inquiring about the issues raised in this article.

    opinion/analysis
    Reading between the lines here, it seems as though there’s a couple of things going on.

    Firstly, it seems like that Foxtel and Samsung have organised some kind of marketing deal that will involve Samsung paying Foxtel fat sacks of cash money to ensure that Foxtel’s Go app is only available, at least in the short-term, through Samsung’s mobile platforms, and not through competing Android companies. The timing is also suspicious, as this morning Samsung held a launch event in Sydney to launch its newest range of Galaxy Tab 3 tablets. Was Foxtel at the event pushing an exclusive deal with Samsung? I wasn’t there, so I’m not sure, but the possibility exists.

    However, there is also the disturbing fact that, despite the Samsung exclusivity arrangement, Foxtel has not been able to make Foxtel Go available on Samsung’s current premiere smartphone, the Galaxy S4.

    From my perspective, this is just weird. There really is not that much hardware difference between the SIII and the S4 — any app that can run on one, should be able to run on the other. And you’d even expect, given its solid specs, that Foxtel Go would be able to run on Samsung’s previous best-seller, the Galaxy S II.

    What this points to is the suspicion that Foxtel’s development team is incompetent, and that its Android app is so flakey that the company has not been able to get it running on Android devices outside certain specific scenarios. Given the complex software involved in a quality IPTV streaming service such as Foxtel Go provides, we can’t say we’re surprised. However, this is a little bit of an indictment on Foxtel’s development capabilities.

    In general, of course, the situation just sux for almost everyone. Apple iOS users can’t jailbreak their devices for some ridiculous Foxtel lockdown reason (probably related to the ability of jailbroken devices to stream content to a TV screen, outside of Apple’s own copy protection schemas). Android users can get the Foxtel Go app, but only if they do so illicitly, via the AusDroid method or similar, or if they want to use it legitimately, they have to have one of only three Samsung devices.

    All this, for a service which Foxtel customers are already paying up to $100 or more for, per month. Well, let me repeat my comments when Foxtel locked down Game of Thrones: “What. A. Big. Fat. Fucking. Joke. Screw you, Foxtel.” Get off your high horse and start doing a better job of actually serving your paying customers. Then you might not have such a terrible reputation amongst Australians who would otherwise be interested in purchasing your overpriced services.

    Image credit: Screenshot of Foxtel Go service

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    39 Comments

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    1. Gibbo McCool
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink |

      There’s already work arounds for jailbroken devices on whirlpool.

      Ausdroid flagged a Samsung exclusive a few months back I think

    2. Paul Walker
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink |

      “Samsung’s current premiere tablet, the Galaxy S4″

      I know its big but its still a phone technically.

      “given its sold specs”

      Shouldn’t this be solid?

      Despite those errors, I certainly agree with your commentary. Foxtel need to try a LOT harder!

    3. waterytowers
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink |

      Why don’t people just drop their subscription and stop using Foxtel? It baffles me that people are willing to pay for such services? It goes to show that addictions come in all forms…

      • Posted 17/07/2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink |

        For all the service’s technical flaws, there is a great deal of desirable content available through Foxtel. Most people I know who subscribe to it do so for the sport.

        • waterytowers
          Posted 17/07/2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink |

          It is not about the technical side, it is about the restrictions put on people that subscribe, and the cost of the subscription. I would not subscribe while the cost is so high, but if they reduced their prices to something reasonable, or if they had a pay per view model where it did not cost too much, I may consider paying for the specific content in which I am interested. I am thinking 1 or 2 dollars to watch a movie/sport event or 5 dollars a month for a subscription… We pay way too much for content in Australia, so until the price is reasonable, I refuse to pay. It has been a long time since I bought a DVD or hired a movie. I also don’t believe in pirating, I don’t feel the need to do something illegal just to watch a movie or TV show. The only way to bring prices down is to have enough people say no too paying the exorbitant prices. Financial pressure is the only real weapon against a greedy supplier. They either go out of business, or reduce their prices to make the sale. While people continue to pay, they will continue to sell at their current prices or higher.

      • Muz
        Posted 17/07/2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink |

        Single reason I have Foxtel is for High Definition sport – video quality craps all over FTA, and covers far more live sporting events.

        I believe Foxtel is currently revamping their Foxtel on XBox and Foxtel on TV (Samsung exclusive again) plans into a new Foxtel Play package, which will also support Foxtel Go (unlike today, where Foxtel Go requires Foxtel Cable or Satellite subscriptions).
        Hopefully Foxtel Play will finally offer smaller packages, rather than the existing model of requiring the starter pack plus extra $ for the channels you actually want.

    4. Posted 17/07/2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink |

      What a case study in treating your customers like crap.

      Foxtel subscribers have already ~proven~ they’re willing to pay (quite a lot) for content. They’ve ~proven~ that they either don’t have the technical skills/desire to source content for free, or that they value convenience over ‘free’. They are the least-likely people to be engaging in wholesale copyright infringement by ripping IPTV streams and redistributing them. (And IF one of their subscribers did rip, say, exclusive sports content and reflect/redistribute it commercially, they can and should pursue them through the courts.)

      And as for a content distributor trying to dictate how one of their paying customers chooses to manage their own mobile devices…? “How very dare they!” ;-) Craziness.

      Their approach to blocking alternate distribution methods of content is also puzzling. Do they honestly think that by blocking (e.g.) iTunes purchases of GoT episodes they will somehow drive demand for new pay TV subscriptions? Or is it far more likely that they’ll just create resentment and ensure that people who otherwise may have considered subscribing will develop a big case of the “screw you”s? If anything, they’re creating exactly the right climate for piracy to take hold. Incredibly short-sighted play from Foxtel.

    5. moldor
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink |

      We recently re-subscribed and because of Foxtel’s inept customer service in sending the box to the WRONG ADDRESS, then LYING about it, we get the basic package plus the entertainment add-on for $33/month – this is reasonable.

      I can understand an arrangement between Foxtel and Samsung from a marketing standpoint, but what right to Foxtel have to say whether or not you can use a “jailbroken” Apple device ? Surely that is not only irrelevant but none of their business ?

      FWIW, their app works fine on both of my “amaze” brand non-name tablets.

    6. ZOG
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink |

      I purchase heaps of non DRM, flac audio files direct from artist web sites, but articles like this can only bring the below meme to mind:

      http://static.zog.net.au/region_free.jpg

    7. Simon Reidy
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink |

      If anyone wants to easily bypass this, there’s a great little Cydia tweak called ‘xCon’ which will fool any app into thinking your iDevice isn’t jailbroken. One of the first things I always install after jailbreaking.

      • Marty mark
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink |

        Thanks Simon Xcon is spot on. Love Cydia.

        • Simon Reidy
          Posted 18/07/2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink |

          No worries. It’s a great little tweak. I’m yet to see it not work for any jailbreak-blocked app.

    8. Tinman_au
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink |

      Like I needed another reason to avoid Toxfel, thanks for the FYI Renai!

    9. SMEMatt
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink |

      It is these kinds of restriction and prompt users to look elsewhere. If the AFL(and maybe some other aussie leagues) got their act sorted instead of selling the rights Foxtel might find this sort of behavior will quickly cost them subscribers.
      I know my brothers pays a sub for NBA games and avoids Foxtel. I would pay to just watch some of the Australian cricket tours that go to Foxtel/Bigpond now. It will only be when they start to lose revenue that they will wonder what went wrong, and then blame the wrong people.

      • Romerio
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink |

        I too pay a subscription fee directly to the NBA for access to their content, bypassing any need for Foxtel. I see more and more sports going down this path (most large American codes can be watched directly from AppleTV via their own apps, removing the distribution middle men). Hopefully Australian sports, and other forms of content, get on board in this fashion.

    10. Andy
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink |

      ” including HTC, as well as other less-popular brands such as Sony, LG, Samsung, ASUS, Huawei and others. And it also locks many Samsung users out of using the app”

      I don’t think you meant to include Samsung in that list of brands.

      • Brody
        Posted 17/07/2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink |

        No they were correct in listing samsung. As only 3 samsung devices will be allowed access to foxtel go, the other users (notably the S4 owner) wont be able to use the service either.

        • Andy
          Posted 17/07/2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink |

          True. Except Renai goes on to explicitly mention Samsung in the next sentence, and I would hardly categorise Samsung as “other less popular brands”

    11. Posted 17/07/2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink |

      And here was me thinking Foxtel had learnt their lesson with providing decent services for a decent price and conveniently….

      Fuck you Foxtel. FTA may be crap sometimes, but it’s better than putting up with your shit.

      • Tinman_au
        Posted 17/07/2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink |

        You need to shop around the channels, and some nights are better than others, but FTA isn’t all crap :)

    12. David
      Posted 17/07/2013 at 11:09 pm | Permalink |

      There is already a workaround for go on jail broken iOS devices. Just install xcon from cydia. And in reality you can’t blame foxtel for locking jail broken devices out. their content partners will be forcing them to disable air playing of video and foxtel of course wants to protect their hardware set top boes and milk the fees. They are a business there to make money for their shareholders, don’t like the service, don’t subscribe. Plenty of other options for streaming of content online. I personally do like it and subscribe, and still get around restrictions like these with a bit of googling.

    13. Waldorf
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink |

      Thanks Simon Reidy Xcon works a treat! Love Cydia. See no reason to stress carry on folks business as usual.

      • Simon Reidy
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink |

        I agree that its nothing to stress about, given the fix is so easy, but its also about trying to get the point across to big companies that jailbreaking is very popular and perfectly legal, and that by placing arbitrary restrictions on jailbroken devices they are only hurting themselves.

    14. Posted 18/07/2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink |

      Foxtel is committing the classic copyright industry sin here.
      The people who know how to jailbreak their iPad are exactly the same people that know how to use Pirate Bay to get everything Foxtel has to offer. Yet they choose to pay Foxtel instead. Foxtel, however, chooses to punish them with its dumb DRM.

    15. Gordon
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 1:44 am | Permalink |

      Cartel: formal “agreement” among competing firms.
      Foxtel: Adjective; To screw your customers.

      • Tinman_au
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 11:33 pm | Permalink |

        Technically, Foxtel isn’t a cartel, it’s a monopoly….the bought out their competitors (with ACCC sanction no less!)

    16. nonny-moose
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 2:22 am | Permalink |

      interesting that this is very similar to another story i saw the other day – the Deus Ex being blocked on jailbroken phones (almost immediately rescinded i believe, after community uproar – check ars tech).

      this is a bit more complicated than that one, but i have to say the command and control efforts Fox is expending over what people view is starting to really bug me. locking to devices; locking against jailbreaks – there are plenty of old skool tv viewers out there who will not like but lump that treatment… well and good for Fox there… but there are more and more of the nuanced ‘script kiddie’ generation who will simply find a hard or soft route around the blockage (as the internet was designed for(!)). encouraging those future patrons to find an alternative route that doesn’t involve their cash falling in my pocket doesn’t strike me as the best way to perpetuate a moneymaking scheme.

      but i guess that’s just me….mind you im neither a fox subbie or shareholder, so if they want to convince people to not give them their money, i guess that’s their prerogative….. again, not what my move would be in their position.

      • Simon Reidy
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink |

        I don’t know why they bothered with Deus Ex, as you’d think they would have to know that anyone that knows how to jailbreak their device can get around the jailbreak check by installing a 2kb jailbreak tweak (xcon also worked a treat for Deus Ex, but is not needed since the latest update). Being able to load the game, but not being able to fire any weapon was the ultimate insult to jailbreakers though!

        The problem is that some companies still aren’t willing to acknowledge that jailbreaking is a perfectly legal thing to do to any mobile device you own. It’s just that along with jailbreaking obviously comes the possibility of piracy, which is what they really care about trying to prevent.

    17. Scott
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink |

      If you block people trying to legitimately access your product, then where do they go? Piracy wins again.

    18. Matthew
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink |

      “The practice of jailbreaking is common in Australia, although it is unclear how legal it is”
      This is only because the legality of the practice has not been challenged here and I dont believe it will be.
      Its perfectly legal in the US but illegal in Canada.
      Any challenge in Australia would probably take the same line as the US which is that it is legal to jailbreak but illegal to infringe on copyright – so jailbreaking is fine, just no stealing apps.
      My Iphone is jailbroken but mainly for tweaks, not stealing crap – such as removing the download restriction when im not on wifi, adding another app column to the screen and changing the look of my keyboard.

      • Simon Reidy
        Posted 18/07/2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink |

        My Iphone is jailbroken but mainly for tweaks, not stealing crap

        Same with all my iDevices. I can’t handle the limitations of stock iOS, but when its jailbroken and tweaked to the max, I love it. I’ve bought a lot of jailbreak tweaks that have added awesome long-term functionality to my devices, and have no interest in piracy. Most apps and tweaks are free or only $1 or 2 anyway, and I like to support developers of good software.

    19. Stephen O
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink |

      Hmmm – any lawyers out there know why this isn’t a case of ‘third line forcing”? “Third line forcing occurs when a supplier places a condition on the supply of its goods or services that the customer must acquire goods or services of a particular type from a third person nominated by the supplier”

    20. Jeremy
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink |

      Got a different Android device? Just root it and use the Ausdroid workaround. Bit of a pain in the ass, and you shouldn’t be forced to do it but it achieves the desired result.

      I never had a reason to root my android tablet previously so I had never done it, but the day they brought out Foxtel Go I got it up and running straight away. Currently running perfectly on my Acer Iconia B1 tablet!

    21. Brownieboy
      Posted 18/07/2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink |

      Just installed the Windoze version of Foxtel Go.

      It’s using Silverlight. Yes, Silverlight! You know, that thing that Microsoft canned, what, a year ago? And here’s Foxtel releasing new products based on it.

      Final proof that Foxtel knows eff all about IT.

    22. Posted 20/07/2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink |

      Now I’m disappointed that I have a recent Samsung phone. I don’t want to support companies doing this… Love that archer troll comic, that is exactly what happens, I don’t see how people think it would work any other way.

    23. Mark
      Posted 30/07/2013 at 1:16 am | Permalink |

      Foxtel have also blocked its customers from watching its content when overseas as I have discovered this week. FOXTEL, why ??!!

    24. ripped off
      Posted 28/08/2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink |

      Everyone that has a non samsung android device should cancel their subscription to Foxtel as we are being totally ripped off just by not having access to foxtel GO and yet still paying the same subscription.




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