Philo Review 2020: Cost, Channels, and More
Rising prices and subscription fatigue got you down? Philo's $20-a-month skinny streamer is here for you.
What is Philo?
Named after television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, live TV streaming service Philo is somewhat revolutionary in its own right: it’s lean, cheap, and sports-free.
While other streamers fight to add more channels and games (and hike prices accordingly), Philo’s TV lineup keeps it light n’ breezy. It offers zero sports or local channels, focusing instead on entertainment (like Comedy Central, Paramount Network, and AMC) and lifestyle (such as A&E, HGTV, and Cooking Channel) networks.
Is Philo good?
With Philo, you get 63+ channels for just $25 bucks a month, to be exact. Throw in unlimited cloud DVR space (with a 30-day time limit), and Philo adds up to more than a “bare-bones” live TV streaming service.
Sports fans should probably stop reading here, though. We’ve reviewed the other streaming services you should check out for your sportsball action.
Philo promotions and deals
Like other live and on-demand TV streaming services, Philo gives you a seven-day free trial to take it for a spin.
Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
To its advantage, Philo has snagged dozens of channels that other live TV streaming services don’t carry, thanks to its four-way ownership made up of AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Discovery Inc., and Viacom.
For Joe and Jane Viewer, the boring biz details mean this: some live TV streaming services, like YouTube TV, don’t carry A+E networks like Lifetime, Hallmark, HISTORY, or VICE. Also, Hulu + Live TV doesn’t have AMC or A&E. Philo carries them all, and on the cheap.
Alone, Philo is a great value—but, as a supplemental service, it really shines. In several of our live TV streaming reviews, you’ll notice Philo referenced as a low-priced service to combine with others for a fuller array of channels.
Philo TV channels and shows
Live and on-demand shows and movies
Have we mentioned Philo’s lack of sports channels? We just want you to know what you’re getting into—though you can find pro wrestling on AXS TV, as well as the most gripping competition in all of television, RuPaul’s Drag Race on VH1.
Philo’s channels are squarely focused on entertainment, with a couple of news options like veteran BBC World News and upstart Cheddar News to keep you up on the headlines.
For well-rounded people who like to watch cooking, home improvement, traveling, cute puppies, and unsolved murders, Philo has Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and Investigation Discovery to keep you occupied.
The majority of TV shows and movies on Philo’s channels are available on-demand after the first live airing. If you missed an episode of Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers, or the even funnier Lifetime movie Soccer Mom Madam, the title’s menu will display “Playable” (on-demand) or “Upcoming” (available to record upon next showing) status, or both.
Philo streaming channels (partial list):
- Animal Planet
- AXS TV
- BBC America
- BBC World News
- Cheddar News
- Comedy Central
- Cooking Channel
- Discovery Channel
- Food Network
- Hallmark Channel
- History Channel
Original shows and movies
Even though it carries a lot of channels, Philo is still a relatively small operation with no plans to start creating its own TV shows and movies.
Services like Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, and now even Spectrum are cranking out more original content than ever. We think Philo can sit this one out; there’s already too many shows.
Securing local channels across the country is nearly as expensive and logistically tricky as carrying sports—so you’ll get none of those on Philo, either.
Fortunately, over-the-air antennas still work perfectly well for receiving local stations that broadcast ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, PBS, and Telemundo (most also feature sports, BTW).
Philo only offers two premium add-on packages, STARZ and EPIX, but at least they’re inexpensive (which is totally Philo’s thing).
Combine Philo with another streaming service
If Philo’s channels don’t give you everything you want, pair it with another streaming service to fill in the blanks—you’ll probably still save money compared to cable or satellite TV.
|100+ entertainment, sports, and local channels, plus YouTube Originals and an unlimited DVR.||Exclusive sports coverage, commentary, documentaries, and live MMA, soccer, and baseball.||Soccer, niche sports, and extra livestreaming entertainment and lifestyle channels.|
Philo specs and features
Philo’s cloud DVR gives you unlimited storage space for shows and movies—but for only 30 days. That’s on par with other streaming services’ cloud DVRs, with the exception of YouTube TV, which keeps your recorded content for nine months.
If you somehow just couldn’t get to those saved episodes of MotorTrend’s Graveyard Carz last month, you’ll still be able to call them up on demand (with commercials). Most Philo channels offer the same capability.
On recorded shows, you can zip past commercials easily thanks to Philo’s sliding preview frame, which works similarly to fast-forwarding on Netflix or Amazon’s Prime Video.
Philo’s display for recorded content could use some work. It’s not always clear which is the most recent episode of a show, meaning there’ll be some guesswork and extra clicking involved to get to what you want. Also, you can’t record individual episodes, just full series.
Three simultaneous streams are allowed with Philo streaming, which is the average for streaming TV services. ESPN+ and only a handful of others offer up to five, for reference.
Philo app logins are enabled for up to 32 devices—which seems a bit excessive, considering that Philo isn’t compatible with all that many streaming gadgets (more on that next).
Compatible streaming devices
If your streaming device is a PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, or most any brand of smart TV, sorry. Philo only works on eight platforms right now.
Philo is compatible with these devices:
Video and audio quality
Most of the livestreaming TV services we’ve reviewed at CableTV.com stream at 720p (pixels) at 60 fps (frames per second) or higher.
Philo streams at 720p at 30 fps, but the HD picture quality difference is only barely discernible. It doesn’t, however, stream anything in 4K.
Channels are arranged alphabetically in grid fashion, with shows hover-highlighted as large tiles. On livestreaming devices, Philo’s aesthetic is oddly retro, using a ’60s-tinged muted color palette. If you’re bored with other staid TV grids, it’s a refreshing look.
To a small extent, you can customize Philo’s channel grid to move your most-watched channels nearer to the top by “favoriting” them—but your favorites with still be listed alphabetically. AMC will always come before VH1, no matter how much you love Black Ink Crew.
Philo streams in standard 2.0 stereo audio; Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound isn’t available. Digable Planets still sound “Cool Like Dat” on MTV Classic, though.
Final take: Philo is (still) a screaming streaming deal
For straight-up entertainment with a load of popular channels and an unlimited cloud DVR included, Philo is as cheap as live TV streaming gets in 2021, even with the recent cost increase to $25 a month. Only the most basic Sling TV package comes close—with half the channels at 10 bucks more a month.
But, if you want sports and local channels, there’ll be workarounds involved, and they’ll cost you a little in additional streaming subscriptions, apps, or antennas.
For the type of viewer with all-encompassing TV needs, it’s best to think of Philo as an add-on to another streaming service. Conveniently, because of its ownership, it carries several channels that other streamers are missing.
It’s almost as if Philo was designed that way. We’re not into corporate media conspiracies, but . . .
Can you get local channels with Philo?
Philo doesn’t carry local channels, which means you can’t watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, PBS, or Telemundo shows on the service. To get local channels, we recommend buying an over-the-air digital antenna, which gives you free access to dozens of area broadcast channels for a one-time purchase.
Does Philo have live TV?
Like cable or satellite, Philo is a live TV service that also streams on-demand content from the 60+ channels in carries.
How much is Philo monthly?
As of June 2021, Philo’s subscription rate is $25 a month, up from $20 in previous years. For an extra charge, you can add premium channels STARZ ($9 a month) or EPIX ($6 a month).
How can I get Philo for free?
Philo offers a seven-day free trial period to try out the service, after which you’ll be charged $25 a month unless you cancel before the week is up.
Does Philo have different packages?
Philo only offers a single basic package: $25 a month for 63+ live TV channels.