Foxtel’s Pay TV service will be available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 games console by the end of the year, delivering up to 30 channels of video-on-demand sports, movies and television programming. While exact pricing, channel and package details were not revealed, Foxtel CEO, Kim Williams described the forthcoming service as being “magnificently affordable”.

For multi-room subscribers, however, Foxtel over Xbox 360 will be a free service. Kind of.

These subscribers currently pay $15 a month to Foxtel to receive their Pay TV package in two rooms. While they will not be charged an additional $15 by Foxtel to receive programming in a third room via the Xbox 360, Microsoft will require them be Xbox Live Gold members, which costs $8/month.

Foxtel for less?

In effect, today’s announcement means that Foxtel will soon be an internet TV provider, and the Xbox 360, with its wireless streaming capabilities, the device that serves it up to the TV over the home’s wireless network.

The deal means Foxtel gets access to around one million Xbox 360 owners – 450,000 of which are already using streaming video via the Xbox Live online gaming service – and Microsoft gets to boost sales of its console and online gaming service through a compelling content offering. Williams says that around 350,000 Australians currently have a Foxtel service and an Xbox 360.

For consumers, the new arrangement makes Foxtel available to households that might currently be out of a Foxtel service area, and for potentially less cost. Foxtel subscribers should not, for example, have to pay for installation or ongoing rental of a Foxtel set-top box if they receive Pay TV exclusively through the Xbox 360 console. These currently cost around $450.

These subscribers, however, will be unable to download or record programming, as the Xbox 360 provides a streaming only service. For recording and downloading video-on-demand and catch-up programming, subscribers will need a Foxtel IQ or IQ2 set-top box. These comprise 54 percent of Foxtel’s 1.6 million household install base.

What to expect

According to Williams, the initial service offering will be standard definition only, with HD to follow. Technically, the system will be also able to support 3D programming, though there are no current plans to implement it.

Broadband speed requirements for the Foxtel/Xbox 360 streaming service are recommended at a minium of 1.5 Mbps, with 2 Mbps being ideal. The service will be supported by all ISPs, according to Williams, who indicated that two (unnamed) ISPs will provide unmetered downloads for the service at launch. Foxtel is part-owned by Telstra, whose BigPond broadband service is the largest in Australia.