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Fanhattan's Fan TV: a New Way to Navigate Live and Digital TV

Fanhattan's app.
Source: Fanhattan
Fanhattan's app.

Cable and satellite TV providers may have a new tool in their arsenal. Here at the D11: All Things D conference Fanhattan, a company known for its app for navigating content options, just unveiled a remote control and a new way to search all the video content options on your TV—both live and digital video.

Fan TV is distinguished by a keyless swipe remote. The sleek ergonomic square is about 2 by 2 inches, and is designed to be controlled intuitively by the swipe of a finger, just like an iPad.

The box, which sits under a TV, puts a user interface on your television, which enables users to swipe between channels, or between TV options—to browse comedy, dramas or movies to watch. And there's a search option, so if you're say, looking for "Seinfeld," you can see where the show is available on live TV, or on a digital option like Netflix or Amazon.

Which companies are Fan TV's competition? The company said it includes DVR capability, which means it's taking onTivo. But the ability to access and search digital options makes it a competitor to Roku as well as Apple TV.

Here's the thing: Fan TV remotes and boxes aren't for sale, and the company isn't planning to sell directly to consumers. Instead it's in the process of negotiating deals with cable and satellite TV providers.

The idea is for pay-TV providers to include the Fan TV user interface as an added benefit—a perk to keep subscribers hooked. That means for now, at least, Fanhattan won't be a tool "for" cord-cutting, but rather a tool to prevent cord-cutting.

One more thing: Fanhattan also has to secure all those deals with digital video options, to get all the options that say Roku's set-top box has, from YouTube and Netflix, to Amazon and Pandora.

Fanhattan wants to replace all consumers set-top boxes—including the cable box, by running live TV through its system. The idea of a simple way to search all video options is compelling. But there's so much competition out there, including from Roku, which just this week raised another $60 million to fuel its expansion.

Perhaps it makes sense that rather then battling the likes of Roku for the same market, Fan TV is working with the traditional companies to help them fight Roku and other cord-cutting tools. Now we'll just have to see if it can ink some of those deals and how much it costs consumers to get Fan TV in their living rooms.

_ By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.