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Philo: Everything to know about the live TV streaming service

Cutting the cable cord isn’t necessarily cheaper than paying for cable anymore. Many top streaming services offer massive channel lineups compared to cable, but after paying for them (and your internet connection), you may just be breaking even.

But do cord cutters really need extensive channel offerings? Philo, a live TV streaming service that’s a competitor to Sling TV and other live TV streamers, believes the answer is no.

While device support was initially limited to Roku, the Philo app is now on Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung TV, and more. Now that it’s available in so many places, it’s a great time to take a look at Philo if you’re looking to save some money without sacrificing live TV entirely.

What is Philo?

Philo on different devices.

While Philo is similar to Sling TV, DirectTV Stream, YouTube TV, or Hulu with Live TV in terms of how it works and the technology behind it, it is a very different offering. Instead of trying to replace a full cable subscription, it offers a smaller subset of channels, and while it’s more expensive now than when it launched, it is still a compelling service with a single $25 per month subscription plan. (Although it also offers a couple of add-ons.)

There are some trade-offs for that low price, however. Philo is focused on offering mainly entertainment and lifestyle programming, which makes sense given that most of its programming is provided by owners A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom (provider of channels like Comedy Central, CMT, MTV, and others). This focus means you won’t find two things that are often prominently featured in other services’ packages: Sports channels and local network channels. But what you will find are plenty of sought-after channels plucked from cable’s deeper catalog.

Channels and price

Example of shows on Philo.

Philo offers a single $25-per-month package, making it significantly simpler than many competitors that offer multiple packages and add-ons for different prices. It’s also significantly more affordable than the next closest competitor, Sling TV’s $40-a-month basic package.

Philo mostly features its owners’ channels. Currently, the service offers 60-plus subscription channels including popular cable networks like AMC, BBC America, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, IFC, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon, TV Land, and VH1. There are also 10 free channels, including Bloomberg TV and Crackle. Conspicuously absent from the service, however, are the major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW — as well as sports channels like ESPN and Fox Sports.

Philo does, however, offer three premium add-on channels:

  • Epix for $6 per month
  • Starz for $9 per month
  • Movies & More for $3 per month (access to a limited number of movie features each month)

The good news when it comes to local networks is that many of us can easily get them for free (and in HD, no less) with the purchase of an affordable HD antenna. If you’re in that camp, and you don’t mind missing out on sports, Philo is an enticing option, and the cheapest way to catch up on banner shows like The Walking Dead or The Daily Show live. Here’s what’s included in the $25 per month Philo subscription:

Features

In addition to livestreaming channels, and a collection of over 40,000 on-demand titles, Philo also offers a free cloud DVR like many pricier streaming services. There is no limit to how much you can record, and Philo allows you to keep recordings for up to a year, a generous allotment considering it used to be limited to around a month.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah page on Philo.

Another feature to consider when shopping for streaming services is how many different devices can tune in at the same time. Philo offers three concurrent streams, meaning up to three people can watch on different devices at a time on the same account. This falls roughly in the middle of the pack: DirecTV Stream offers three, and Sling TV offers up to three, depending on which package you choose. Philo also offers the ability to create up to 10 profiles, with individual saved shows and viewing history.

Other features include common TV options like a TV guide and browsing capabilities, closed captioning, a Keep Watching section, and more. Philo also supports picture-in-picture viewing, AirPlay, and the ability to adjust your video quality.

What about watching away from home? All of Philo’s livestreaming channels can be accessed on the go via the company’s iOS app, or the Chrome browser on Android devices. Additionally, many of the channels carried by Philo offer their own on-demand shows and movies that might not be included in Philo’s on-demand catalog.  To access them, you need to download that channel’s dedicated app, and then sign in using your Philo credentials. To see which channels offer this service, and the platforms they support, check out Philo’s TV Everywhere help page.

Supported devices

Early on, Philo struggled to keep up with rival services when it came to device support. For a long time, the Roku platform was the only way to watch the service on a TV, meaning you needed either a Roku TV or one of the company’s streaming boxes or newer streaming sticks. Things have changed however, and now Philo is also available on Apple TV and Fire TV devices, including the Fire TV Cube. There’s also app support for Chromecast and Samsung TV, although you’ll need devices from the last couple of years or newer for these platforms. An app is available for iOS and iPadOS devices, as well as Android devices. It’s also accessible via web browser, including popular options like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. It is not available, however, on game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation.

Viewing experience

During our time testing Philo, we watched the service on every supported platform, and the picture quality was good no matter which we chose. The picture is slightly softer-looking than Sling TV, but not as much as we have experienced with DirecTV Stream in the past.

When it comes to actually navigating through available shows, the interface is mostly universal from platform to platform, with an easy-to-use guide for browsing live TV and on-demand options alike.

A Philo page with Halt and Catch Fire on it.

It’s clear from the get-go that Philo is content-oriented, not channel-oriented. No matter which platform you’re watching on, the first thing you’ll see when firing up the app is the home screen, which features two main sections: Trending Live shows, presumably shows other users are watching the most; and New & Upcoming, which lets you see which shows and movies are on the way. If you were previously watching one or more TV shows or movies, you’ll also see an option to pick up where you left off.

There is also a Live section that shows what is currently airing, organized alphabetically by channel. While other streaming services tend to start you off on the livestream, Philo instead gives you the option to click through on-demand content or skip to the livestream if you prefer.

Our take

Finding the right streaming service isn’t an easy task, especially when you’re looking for something comprehensive yet affordable. In the case of Philo, if it offers the channels you’re looking for, it’s a great option. Obviously, this isn’t the streaming service for news junkies or sports fanatics, and if you’re just looking to save money, you might also consider a Netflix or Hulu subscription supplemented by a more limited (but totally free) service like Pluto TV.

If you’re curious about Philo but aren’t ready to commit, there’s a free seven-day trial, and you don’t even need to enter payment information for the first two days — all you need is your mobile number. If you’re still uncertain, make sure to check out our comparison of the other most popular live TV streaming services to get the lay of the land.

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