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Philo: everything to know about the live TV streaming service

Philo home page.
Philo

Are you considering cutting the cord on your cable TV to save some cash? With the rise of streaming services, it seems like that may not be as cost-effective as it once was. These days, you can find many channels on streaming platforms that could cost you as much as your cable subscription and internet service.

Do you need all those channels? Philo, a TV streaming service, begs to differ. It competes with TV streaming options like Sling TV and provides a more budget-friendly choice without sacrificing access to live television.

At first, the Philo app was limited to Roku devices. Now, it is available on Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung TV. Its availability across platforms makes it an attractive option for anyone looking to cut costs while still enjoying programming.

What is Philo?

Philo is a streaming service that works similarly to Sling TV, DirectTV Stream, YouTube TV, or Hulu with Live TV, but it offers different channels. Instead of a full cable subscription, it provides a smaller selection of channels at $25 per month. It also provides a few add-ons.

Philo offers mainly entertainment and lifestyle programming, provided by its owners A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom (including popular channels like Comedy Central, CMT, MTV, and others). As Philo focuses on entertainment and lifestyle programming, it needs sports and local network channels. But, it offers plenty of sought-after channels from cable’s deeper catalog.

Channels and price

Philo channels.
Philo

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

Philo mostly features its owners’ channels. Currently, the service offers 70-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. However, the major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW — and sports channels like ESPN and Fox Sports are consistently absent from the service.

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

  • MGM+ for $7 per month
  • Starz for $10 per month
  • Movies & More for $3 per month (access to a limited number of movie features each month)

The good news regarding local networks is that we can quickly get them for free (and in HD, no less) by purchasing an affordable HD antenna. If you’re in that camp and are okay with missing out on sports, Philo is an enticing option and the cheapest way to catch up on banner shows.

Features

In addition to livestreaming channels and a collection of over 40,000 on-demand titles, Philo offers a free cloud DVR like many pricier streaming services. You can record unlimited amounts, 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.

Another feature to consider when shopping for streaming services is how many devices can tune in simultaneously. Philo offers three concurrent streams, meaning up to three people can watch simultaneously on the same account on other devices. 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 allows the creation of up to 10 profiles, with individual saved shows and viewing history.

Other features include standard 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 video quality adjustment.

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 on-demand shows and movies that might not be included in Philo’s on-demand catalog. You must download that channel’s dedicated app and sign in using your Philo credentials to access it. Check out Philo’s TV Everywhere help page to see which channels offer this service and the platforms they support.

Supported devices

Early on, Philo struggled to keep up with rival services regarding 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 browsers, including popular options like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. However, It is unavailable on game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation.

Viewing experience

Philo screenshot.
Philo

While testing Philo, we watched the service on every supported platform, and the picture quality was good regardless of which platform 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 primarily universal from platform to platform, with an easy-to-use guide for browsing live TV and on-demand options alike.

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 previously watched one or more TV shows or movies, you’ll also see an option to pick up where you left off.

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

Our take

Finding the right streaming service isn’t easy, especially when 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. This isn’t the streaming service for news junkies or sports fanatics. To save money, consider a Netflix or Hulu subscription supplemented by a more limited (but free) service like Pluto TV.

If you’re curious about Philo but aren’t ready to commit, there’s a seven-day free trial for new users. Just visit the website for more information. 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.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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