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Philo testing picture-in-picture feature for TV listings

The home screen of the streaming TV service Philo. (Graphic by The Desk)

Wallet-friendly live television streaming service Philo is testing a new feature that would bring a significant update to its on-screen TV listings.

The feature would allow viewers to continue watching a program while browsing Philo’s TV guide for other things to watch across the service’s five dozen live TV channels and robust on-demand catalog of content.

The feature was teased in a social media comment left by Andrew McCollum, Philo’s chief executive, in response to a question left by a customer on a popular community platform.

“We are experimenting with a combination of [picture-in-picture] and overlaying the guide over the video,” McCollum wrote, adding that the company was still developing the feature and that it could land on Roku versions of the app first.

Currently, video playback is interrupted on Philo when a customer switches to the service’s program guide or another part of its app. Allowing viewers to continue streaming video while browsing other parts of its app would help Philo catch up to a handful of competing streaming services, including YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Sling TV, each of which has similar features in place.

While customers typically praise Philo for its low price ($25 a month), robust channel offering and wide compatibility with streaming TV devices, the channel guide has been a point of rare criticism among Philo’s hardcore fan base.

As the service grows — it now has more than 800,000 subscribers, a number that is likely to sharply increase thanks to its recent partnership with T-Mobile and Sprint — it is constantly fine-tuning different features and adding new ones to help attract new customers and encourage existing ones to stick around.

Last week, a company official confirmed to The Desk that Philo recently started allowing users of Amazon’s Fire TV devices to subscribe directly to the service using Amazon Pay. That feature means Amazon Fire TV device users can pay for a Philo subscription directly through the app using the same credentials tied to their Amazon account.

It was not clear if the same feature would roll out to other devices. Philo is also supported on Apple TV, Android TV (Google TV) and Roku, each of which offers its own native payment processing feature if developers choose to utilize it.

Philo offers more than five dozen live television networks from a handful of programmers, including ViacomCBS (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon), Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, Animal Planet), AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, BBC America) and A+E Networks (A&E, History Channel) for $20 a month. The service is available across a wide range of popular streaming TV boxes and sticks, and also works with smartphones, tablets and through web browsers on computers.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).