Philo brings live streaming and TV Everywhere access for under $20
Philo is the best deal for getting premium channels like AMC and Investigation Discovery without paying for cable.
But if you subscribe, you should realize that its menu and features are still a work in progress. That said, a mini-channel bundle may help you finally break some bad habits – like paying too much for cable TV.
5 facts about Philo TV
- Price: $16 per month for 37 channels, or $20 per month for 46 channels
- Simultaneous streams: Three
- Trial period: 7-day free trial
- Supported devices: Roku, Roku TVs, iOS, iPhone app, Chrome browser
- TV Everywhere support: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV and Xbox One
What is Philo?
Philo is one of the latest live TV streaming services that deliver channels over the Internet instead of a cable cord or satellite dish perched on your roof.
The company got its start in the live TV streaming business by serving colleges and universities. Philo — named after TV inventor Philo Farnsworth – rolled out its residential service in November.
Subscribers to Philo can get 37 channels including A&E, HGTV and Science Channel for $16 per month.
The 46 channel lineup adds MTV Live, American Heroes Channel, Cooking Channel and 6 others for $20 per month. There’s limitless Cloud DVR and TV Everywhere access for just about all your apps. Recordings only stick around for 30 days.
The streaming quality is solid enough that I forget that I’m streaming if I’m watching something good. It’s not until I get back into the menu to watch something else that I recall what I’m using to watch live TV.
Philo TV device support
But you might not be signing up to watch “The Walking Dead” from your living room TV if you’re without a Roku or Roku TV.
For now, Philo only supports Roku and Roku TVs on the streaming device front. From a supported web browser, you can watch Philo on Mac computers, PCs, iOS devices and Android devices (version 7.0 or higher).
There’s an iPhone app, too.
One way you can use Philo on other streaming devices like Apple TV or Fire TV is by logging into TV Everywhere apps. Philo recently posted a list of devices, including Xbox One that will accept TV Everywhere credentials. Philo is working on expanding support to Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, NVIDIA Shield and “etc,” according to the company. But no dates have been announced for those devices.
Like most live TV streaming platforms, Philo offers a free seven day trial that you can activate with your smartphone. Because you’re not being asked for credit or debit card for the first two days, the initial setup process is the fastest one I’ve ever used on a subscription streaming service.
What are the best channels on Philo?
AMC certainly brings a lot of value, especially if you’re a fan of shows like “The Walking Dead” or my favorite “Better Call Saul.” My wife demands Animal Planet for shows like “River Monsters”, and “Expedition Unknown” on Travel Channel. “Huang’s World” on Viceland is pretty entertaining. I love watching “It’s Suppertime” on Viceland, and I’ve made a few meals except for a Big Dog. Being a huge Michael Kenneth Williams fan, I’m also glad to have new episodes of “Hap & Leonard” in the mix on Sundance TV.
For movies, IFC, BCC America, Paramount Network and AMC have enough for me to watch within the Philo app and all the TV Everywhere apps.
Having some live music is very important. So I opted for the $20 per month subscription to get MTV Live. That lets me watch all the “Austin City Limits” and “Live …with Jools Holland” that I want.
But honestly, I’ve been a bigger fan of AXStv. During my three months of subscribing to Philo, I’ve been using that channel the most to watch full concerts from Eric Clapton, Queen and Robert Plant. It’s probably my favorite channel on Philo.
How Philo works
When you open the Philo app on Roku, a home screen is topped off with a “Keep Watching” queue. So you can pick up where you left off on TV shows and movies that you were recently watching.
Under that, there are categories for “Saved Shows”, “Trending Live”, “Top Shows on Philo” and “New Upcoming Shows.”
The “Keep Watching” part of the menu is pretty handy, especially since the way that Philo’s guide is set up doesn’t lend itself to channel surfing.
The “Live” section of the menu gives you a thumbnail-style overview of what’s currently playing on all your channels. You can prioritize which channels show up first by selecting them as favorites.
The “Saved” section that aggregates all your recorded content is pretty good. I can get a nice overview of shows I record, and I once I “save” a program I want to watch, I automatically record an entire season.
On the web version, you also have a “Guide” option to see what’s coming up on a channel hour by hour.
PlayStation Vue has a similar option in its interface, and personally I’ve never been a big fan of it. My eyesight is pretty good, but I could never read Vue’s guide while sitting on the opposite end of the room from my TV. Overall, Philo’s user interface on Roku is functional, but it could be better. More on this a little later.
How is Philo Cloud DVR vs PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV?
Philo has unlimited Cloud DVR and keeps your recorded programs for 30-days. You can skip through commercials on your recorded programs, a welcome feature. By comparison, the pricier PlayStation Vue lets you fast forward through commercials. PS Vue lets you keep Cloud DVR for 30 days.
YouTube TV favors use of on-demand programming when you record shows, and some programs make you watch the ads.
I’ve been happy with how easy it has been to record favorite shows. I can just click on an upcoming show’s thumbnail, and get the entire season that’s available. I don’t have to think too deeply about it, which is the best system you can have.
Philo also has a 72-hour rewind option, allowing you to catch up with any program that you may have learned about the day after it aired.
Philo TV has no sports or locals
You’re not going find your local NBC, ABC or FOX stations on Philo. And if you’re in range of over-the-air signals, then an antenna can get you those networks for free.
You could complain about the lack of sports channels on Philo, but if you do then you’re missing the point.
Sports networks are among the most expensive ones carried by cable, satellite TV and streaming platforms. The consulting firm PwC estimates that North American sports leagues earned $18.4 billion in 2016 from TV, radio and streaming platforms.
Philo is a first among any pay-TV carriers to cut out sports, giving those who don’t want networks like ESPN a price break.
For years, scores of cable subscribers frustrated by their ever-rising monthly bills have asked a simple question.
Why should anyone have to pay for a channel they don’t watch?
Answer: You don’t.
But surprisingly, even cord cutting sports fans have found a place for Philo in their roster of subscriptions. Users on the subreddit r/PhiloTV also see the non-sports platform as a supplement to other live TV streaming options that carry Major League Baseball or NFL games.
Sports add-ons that might complement Philo
Cord cutting, for many, is about getting more control over what you watch and pay for. Cable and satellite TV companies have habituated viewers into getting all their desired channels in one place.
That’s all coming undone now.
Philo may be the first of many new, smaller streaming platforms that could prompt waves of people to go cold turkey on the idea of getting all your channels under one menu.
ESPN+ is about to make its debut as a standalone streaming platform that will cost $4.99 per month. The new platform will have 180 Major League baseball games and 180 National Hockey League matches, according to Variety.
Turner announced a new live sports streaming service, Bleacher Report Live, that will let users subscribe or access on a per-game basis. The NBA is also experimenting with allowing fans to watch the 4th quarter of a live basketball game for 99 cents.
Before dumping PlayStation Vue for Philo, I had to take stock of what I was really watching. There was one complication that I discovered from having so many channels. I liked the idea of having lots of channels, but in reality, I watched very few. So again, the same question comes up. Why should anyone have to pay for a channel they don’t watch? (You know the answer.)
Philo vs Sling TV: Battle of Cheap Channel Lineups
If you’re that worked up about not having ESPN or local channels in your channel lineup, you could spend about the same money for Sling TV.
Like with all things, there are some trade offs.
Sling’s smaller channel lineup will get you a number of channels not on Philo. They include ESPN, ACC Extra, CNN, ESPN3, TNT, TBS, Tribeca Shortlist, and Epix Drive-In. Newsy, Cheddar and Bloomberg Television makeup part of Sling TV’s Orange bundle for news coverage, but these are channels that you can get for free elsewhere.
Sling Blue will give you regional sports networks in many markets in the U.S. You’ll also pick up gems like FX, FXX, FS1, FS2, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. Then of course there’s another $5 per month for 50 hours of Cloud DVR, and $5 per month for any add-on channel bundles for more sports and entertainment programming. You can explore your Sling TV options with a free 7-day trial.
If Sling TV doesn’t do it for you, then you could jump into what I call the $40 per month club: PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV.
DirecTV Now has an entry-level channel bundle that gets you ESPN and ESPN2 for $35 per month. But to get regional sports networks, you’ll need to bump up to the 80+ channel bundle for $50 per month. AT&T offers a free 7-day trial to new DirecTV Now customers.
fuboTV has 70+ channels, including a number of networks found within the channel lineup, alongside regional sports networks. There’s no ESPN with fuboTV, but plenty of channels you’ll see on Philo.
You can look over fuboTV’s channel lineup, or check out a free 7-day trial.
Philo TV channel list
Here’s a quick look at the Philo channel lineup, which is made up of channels from AMC Networks, Discovery and Viacom.
|PHILO: FOR $16 PER MONTH|
|BBC World News||Nick Jr.|
|Comedy Central||Sundance Channel|
|Food Network||Travel Channel|
|Investigation Discovery (ID)|
|FOR $4 MORE|
|American Heroes Channel|
Areas of improvement for Philo TV
Philo could really use an overhaul with its user interface and channel guide. This is a pretty common issue for live TV being funneled to us over the Internet into our living rooms.
For all the innovation that live TV streaming services offer, there really hasn’t been one with a truly great guide.
I really liked the latest upgrade that PlayStation Vue did with the latest Roku OS8 update. (But the months of channel shuffling by Sony followed by a price increase eventually led me to leave.) YouTube TV’s vertically scrolling live guide is the most user friendly one out there. It’s as good on a streaming device as it is on your smartphone or PC.
Philo CEO Andrew McCollum said in a Reddit AMA back in December that his company is planning on improving its channel guide on Roku in the near future. I’m looking forward to it.
Philo needs a section that aggregates all on-demand movies from every channel in your subscription.
Right now, you have to look within each channel queue to find on-demand movies. That’s a big time suck, and you may not even realize what’s available on any given day.
Example: “Django Unchained” is on-demand through BET Her, but you don’t really watch that channel.
You’d certainly watch Django if you knew it was available.
Looking over the on-demand offerings for each channel individually is a pain and not that user friendly. I don’t want to burn 30 minutes looking over my options when I only have two hours of free time to actually watch a whole movie. That could prompt anyone to run to Netflix in a heartbeat.
Is Philo worth it?
I’ve been happy as a paying customer of Philo for the last three months. It’s been just the right amount of pay-TV for me because I already have so much else to watch.
I get about 44 channels with my TV antenna. Put that together with my other streaming subscriptions and I have more quality programming than I have time for.
Philo won’t be for everyone. But if you’re not a big sports fan, or have other ways to watch baseball or basketball, then Philo might be the perfect fit in your cord cutting wheelhouse.
A lot of people want some kind of a la carte option. Television providers will probably never be able to do that and make a profit. But consider that small sports-only bundles are already emerging in 2018 with more to come in the months ahead.
If they are priced about the same as an entry-level Philo subscription, then you could arguably sign up to a couple of services and still pay less than a traditional cable bill.
Yeah, I know. You need Internet too. An affordable price for Internet only comes by negotiating one, or getting an introductory deal for $30 or $40 per month. Impossible? Nope. But it takes some work.
I wouldn’t be too quick to judge Philo for its shortcomings with its menu setup, especially since residential service rolled out in November. Unlike many of its larger competitors, there haven’t been any major hiccups with spotty service or overwhelmed servers.
Is Philo the future of television? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not waiting to find out. I’m keeping my subscription. Try out Philo for yourself for free and see what you think.
If you’ve already signed up for Philo, are you a happy customer? Tell fellow readers about your experiences in the comments below.