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Fox Now is a nice-looking TV app. Do you need a nice-looking TV app?

It’s on Apple TV only, for now.

21st Century Fox
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Depending on who you talk to, the future of TV will either be bundles of networks and shows, or narrow pitches for individual networks and shows.

So here’s something in the middle: Fox Now, a new app that lets you watch just about whatever you want, live and on-demand — as long as it’s on one of three TV networks owned by 21st Century Fox.

Fox Now launches on Apple TV today and will eventually migrate to other devices and platforms. It’s a nice-looking app that features full-screen clips instead of thumbnails when it wants to show off shows and movies from the three networks it combines: Fox, FX and National Geographic.

Eventually it will incorporate other Fox assets, like its Fox Sports networks.

It’s also a “TV Everywhere” app, which means it’s only useful to people who already have a subscription to a pay TV provider like Comcast*.

It’s easy to understand why Fox would want an app that promotes other Fox shows to viewers, but harder to understand why a viewer would want to use it instead of just watching a Fox show on regular TV.

Two possible reasons:

  • The app has a nice-looking interface.
  • The app lets you restart some shows and movies that are airing live on linear TV — so if you join “The Americans” halfway through, you can watch from the beginning.
21st Century Fox

But that still assumes you know that a show you want to watch is a Fox show, or an FX show. Or that you care about watching it on the Fox app instead of other entry points, like DirecTV Now, Sling or even Apple’s own “TV” app.

And there are more entry points coming: Both the upcoming YouTube TV and Hulu subscription services will feature nice interfaces and lots of channels in addition to Fox channels.

Fox execs won’t say this out loud, but the real point of this app will likely show up in the future. If and when Fox decides to create new services — ones that don’t replicate what’s already on TV — it will likely use the architecture for this one as a starting point.

Notes for people who care about this stuff:

  • Just like everyone else, Fox’s ability to stream live TV comes with asterisks. Some programming that shows up on local affiliates won’t be available at launch. And as always, NFL games may be a wild card: Fox execs can’t promise today that viewers will be able to stream NFL games on Fox next fall, though they’re hopeful they can work it out.
  • Along those lines, a reminder that tech/UI is only half the battle when it comes to this stuff: If you can’t watch the show/movie you want to watch, it doesn’t matter how nice the app is. Right now, for instance, Fox Now can’t show you FX’s “Atlanta,” the great, award-winning sorta-comedy it launched last fall — despite the fact that Fox owns the show. Turns out “Atlanta” is in some sort of weird non-window, and isn’t streaming anywhere. If you want to watch it online, for now, you have to buy it from iTunes. I’ll pay whoever fixes this sort of problem.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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