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One small live-TV streamer is rolling out a big Netflix-like design

FuboTV is aiming for flashy design its heavyweight-backed competitors haven't tried.

FuboTV is introducing a Netflix-like interface that shows live previews of what's playing on channels as you browse. 

FuboTV

You may not know FuboTV. But the live-TV streaming service hopes that if you give it a try, it'll feel familiar. 

FuboTV plans to introduce  a new player interface for Apple TV on Tuesday that borrows a sleek feature from Netflix, where TV channels begin playing in the background while you browse. The feature on FuboTV, which offers bundles of live TV channels to watch online starting at $45 a month, is part of a "dynamic discovery" design that will roll out to half of its Apple TV viewers immediately.  It plans to widen to all Apple TV users over the next week. 

In the cutthroat competition for live-TV online, the little guys are looking for all possible ways to stand out. 

"We looked at what our competitors where doing in the space, and how they're kind of tackling this problem. And we found it a little unsatisfactory," Dave Yoon, FuboTV's senior vice president of design, said in an interview earlier this month. "It's kind of annoying to start a player, and then jump back out and find another thing."

FuboTV, which began as a soccer-focused streaming service but has broadened to more than 90 channels crossing all stripes of live television, is one of a parade of virtual TV services that emerged in the last three years. All the companies are vying for the same prize: dominating virtual television as viewers are cutting the cord from pricey, rigid cable and satellite packages. But without the early start of Sling TV, or the marketing budgets of AT&T or Google, smaller players are hustling to distinguish their product and content.

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Most of FuboTV's competitors are operated by tech Goliaths, like AT&T's DirecTV Now, Google's YouTube TV, Dish's Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and Sony's PlayStation Vue. FuboTV is backed by about $150 million in funding, with investors like traditional TV companies AMC Networks, 21st Century Fox, Sky and Scripps Networks Interactive, which is now part of Discovery. Venture capital firms Luminari Capital and Northzone are also investors. 

Tests of FuboTV's "dynamic discovery" design indicate that the feature may make a difference. A test version, in which users opted into the design by selecting an "electronic program guide from Fubo's menu, found that subscribers using the new layout consumed one additional hour of content on average each day. (About 30 percent of its users tried it.)

"I don't think this feature alone will have people throwing money at us. That would be nice," Yoon said. "It's an aggregate of a lot of different decisions we make about our services and our product that eventually will get us there."

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