Add more content here...
February, 2024

Foxtel launches connected Hubbl TV and ‘puck’ as a one sign-in entertainment gateway for 18 streaming, BVOD apps; Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Stan, Paramount in

People are chasing the shows much more than the apps because content can move from place to place.

Fraser Stirling, Global Chief Product Officer, Comcast, Sky and Hubble

Foxtel is taking on the likes of Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Firestick as part of its ambitions to top 5 million subscribers – up from 4.3m paying customers today – and it might actually be doing viewer and customer experience better than the tech players for the big screen. 

That’s certainly the ambition with the official launch of Foxtel’s aggregated streaming and BVOD service Hubbl, based on Sky Glass in the UK and US although the Australian version is piloting new features which has those markets watching with keen interest – particularly a central subscription management service for Hubbl’s streaming and BVOD partners via a voice-controlled smart TV and live, linear TV viewing via broadcaster apps.    

Direct feed

Hubbl works by taking a direct feed from inside each competing BVOD or streaming app that has joined the service and presents content from any via Hubbl’s platform based on what’s trending across them all or by voice-controlled search from viewers. 

Although it won’t tickle those wanting the end of traditional TV programming and scheduling, Stirling said a vast amount of viewing time still comes from those services and Hubbl has built free-to-air broadcast feeds into the platform from their apps. Typing in a postcode will give viewers their local TV content.    

“We’ve recreated the linear experience,” said Stirling, “but each of these live channels are coming from an app.”

One of the biggest differences between Hubbl, Chromecast and Firestick is that the latter two point viewers on connected TVs to content across competing services but still require multiple sign-ins from smartphones. 

Hubbl aggregates both the content and subscription management of streaming services and couples it with a front end UI loaded with a bunch of new viewer-friendly intuitive features that allows Hubbl users to switch seamlessly between linear TV feeds (via broadcaster apps like  9Now, 7+, 10Play, ABC iView and SBS) to content across multiple SVOD and AVOD streaming services and YouTube.       

It’s another big roll of the dice by Foxtel to keep pace with rapid viewing and competitive changes, although Hubbl will serve as a trojan horse for customer acquisition and retention of the company’s own apps such as Kayo, Binge and Lifestyle, which feature prominently.    

Premium Hubbl TV sets and a mass-market “puck” will sell via Harvey Norman, JB HIFi and on Hubbl’s online store and Foxtel will clip the subscription ticket on some of the streaming partners who have signed on. 

Device declutter

“It’s not an app-first experience, which is important,” continued Stirling, who was in Sydney for the launch. “People are chasing the shows much more than the apps because content can move from place to place, so we’re really focused on that content experience. But we make sure we always attribute the brands properly. Whether that’s Binge, Lifestyle Disney+, Prime Video or 9Now or 7+, it’s really important for our customers to see all those brands because they know they don’t need another device connected to their telly.”

Stirling acknowledged “there are products out there that have all the content in one place” but it wasn’t easy for viewers to access. “A lot of these other platforms do have all the apps but our focus is on how do you make it super easy for people to find stuff and dive in and out? Hubbl means I don’t have to go into each app individually for my content to watch it from those apps. We work with those partners. They expose the content, you watch it from the inside of their app but its all in one place.”

Hubbl is also incentivising viewers with monthly subscription discounts of up to $15 when they subscribe to three or more services, called Stack and Save. It also is making sign-ups to new subscription services simple. 

“If I see an awesome piece of content from Disney, say the Mandalorian, and I’m not a subscriber, a few clicks and you can add that to your bill,” said Stirling. The difference is, from the remote, not having to go online.

Less search, more watch

Whether Australia, UK or US, he says Hubbl and its Glass equivalents, were about solving a customer and viewer problem – a messy user experience jumping in and out of multiple apps on a connected TV and the time most spend trying to find something to watch.

An Accenture “Reinvent for Growth” report last year said 66 per cent of Australians “feel overwhelmed” with the number of streaming services to choose from and 92 per cent said they would be interested in a single app that can provide all those services on a single platform – the global figure was 85 per cent. Another 25 per cent said it typically takes them more than 10 minutes to choose something to watch.

“The customer problems are the same whether it’s the UK, US or Australia,” said Stirling. “We spend more time searching than we do watching. It’s not a customer problem but that’s the problem we’re trying to solve.”

Stirling wouldn’t be drawn on numbers or percentages, but says Foxtel’s experience in the US and UK markets had shown that “the number of watches [views] goes up for app partners, but if doesn’t actually increase the time in the app.” In effect, he said that means people are spending the same amount of time viewing, but watching more content because they are no longer wasting time searching.

“That shows we’re getting [viewers] into the right place and platform partners are getting the advantage of that – because they’re getting more time with their content,” per Stirling. “So it’s a win-win for partners and customers. It’s a more valuable entry to the app.”

The premium Hubbl TV set starts at $1500 and $99 for the puck.

Stirling nor Foxtel would be drawn on their forecasts for Hubbl’s take-up in the Australian market and the precise timings for the TV set launch is still not clear. But he did indicate the firm is already looking beyond TV: “Gaming’s next”. 

Currency gain?

While Stirling was tight-lipped on commercial arrangements beyond some sign-up incentives from partners, the service may also provide Foxtel with further potential advantage in terms of understanding what people are watching across BVOD, SVOD and AVOD.

The kind of granularity between Foxtel and the apps it has signed up to Hubbl are under wraps. But it could serve to bolster the kind alternative measurement system the firm aims to build based on its 4.3m paying subscribers’ consumption data.

Foxtel Media boss Mark Frain last year indicated the business will next year pull out of the OzTam ratings system after simmering discontent over the numbers boiled over.

Instead, it’s attempting to build a coalition of the willing, including the big streamers, while wooing SBS to join the fold. VideoAmp, one of a number of players bidding to challenge Nielsen’s measurement currency dominance in the US via a hybrid set-top box and ACR panel, is due to be the currency partner. A proof of concept is due in market this year.

In the meantime, a deal with Kantar to crunch two years worth of historical set top box data and analyse that data going forward, “will provide a counterpoint to OzTam’s linear panel in 2024,” per Frain.