Telstra today unveiled its second generation Telstra TV set-top box, adding support for live free-to-air, 4K content, and high dynamic range (HDR) video. While next generation content formats may be the technical draw card for the new Telstra TV, the set-top box’s user interface has also received major improvements.
The new Telstra TV still has discrete apps for Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now, Bigpond Movies, and Australia’s five catch-up services (iView, SBS On Demand, Nine Now, Tenplay, and Plus Seven), but it features a universal search that that hooks into all of these platforms. This is bolstered by an integrated TV tuner, which will also universal search to include content from live free-to-air channels.
Executive Director of Media, Michele Garra, said the new Telstra TV was designed with discoverability in mind, pointing to research’s that suggested 65% of Australians become frustrated when trying to find what to watch, and where to watch it.
"Despite [the innovation occurring in the SVOD space] and choice it has been increasingly difficulty for customers to find what they want to watch, in addition to the frustration of switching between services and devices to keep the whole family happy and entertained."
"We want to make it simple to discover the entertainment you want to watch, so you can avoid entertainment exasperation."
Booting up the new Telstra TV will throw up a content gallery home screen where you can browse highlights or search for a show. The search will show you what services a show is available, and make the distinction between live TV, on demand, and paid content. These results are deep linked into the supported streaming services, and will automatically load the content without needing to go through another user interface.
The home screen will also show you what’s currently airing on live TV, as well as how far through the show or movie is. If you start watching live TV content, the new Telstra TV will also show if you if it’s available anywhere else on demand.
The new Telstra TV isn't the only set-top box with universal search around - universal search is one of the key features of the Apple TV - but it's the first in Australia to support free-to-air integration.
In terms of the physical hardware, the new Telstra TV is built by Roku, who is a leading manufacturer of set-top boxes in the United States. Telstra says the box is four times faster than the original Telstra TV. While Netflix, Stan, and YouTube will support 4K at launch, Telstra says its working with distribution partners to bring 4K movies to Bigpond Movies for rental.
In addition to support for 4K HDR (HDR 10, rather than Dolby Vision) video, the new Telstra TV supports HEVC encoding, which is a relatively new high efficiency video codec. If a service supports HEVC, you’re able to stream higher quality video while using less data, which in turn makes it less demanding on your internet connection.
The new Telstra TV will be available from October 31, retailing for $192 outright. New customers taking up the broadband contracts worth $99 per month or more will get a Telstra TV for free. Alternatively, the new Telstra TV is available for $8 per month over a 24-month contract.
Customers with an original Telstra TV will receive a software upgrade on October 31, kitting it out with the new content driven user interface and universal search.