Philo Review 2019
The bottom line: Philo does a lot for less
Named after television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, livestreaming 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 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.
You get 58 of them for just $20 bucks a month, to be exact. Throw in unlimited cloud DVR space (with a 30-day time limit), and Philo appears to be more than a “bare-bones” livestreaming service.
Sports fans should probably stop reading here, though. We’ve reviewed some other streaming services you can check out.
Philo promotions and deals
If you’re a WOW! Broadband customer in the Midwest or Southeast, Philo can be bundled with your service beginning summer 2019. Pricing details haven’t been disclosed yet, but it could amount to more than just a billing convenience.
|Price||Live channels||Cloud DVR||Streams|
|PhiloView Plan||$20/mo.||58||Unlimited (for 30 days)||3|
|Cloud DVR||Unlimited (for 30 days)|
Data effective as of 07/01/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Philo recently consolidated its two differently priced tiers into a single, $20 a month “skinny bundle.” It’s not cheaper, but it is less confusing.
But how did Philo snag dozens of channels that other livestreaming services can’t touch? Well, it’s four-way ownership is made up of AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Discovery Inc., and Viacom.
For Joe and Jane Viewer, the boring biz details mean this: livestreaming TV services like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV don’t carry Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, or A+E networks like Lifetime, History, and Viceland. Philo does—and on the cheap.
In several of our livestreaming TV reviews, you’ll notice Philo referenced as a low-priced service to combine with others for a fuller array of channels.
Philo 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 some pro wrestling, as well as the most gripping competition in all of television, RuPaul’s Drag Race on VH1.
Philo is 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.
Most TV shows and movies on Philo’s channels are available on-demand after the first live airing. If you missed an episode of IFC comedy Brockmire, or the even funnier Lifetime movie Psycho Stripper, the title’s menu will display “Playable” (on-demand) or “Upcoming” (available to record upon next showing) status, or both.
Philo livestreaming 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 content.
Networks like Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, and now even Spectrum are cranking out original shows. 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, and The CW (most also feature sports, BTW).
There are no channel add-ons, or any kind of add-ons, with Philo. You should be getting the sense by now that this is a no-frills service—what you see is exactly what you get, for $20 a month.
You may see some older reviews around the internet stating that Philo offers two differently priced tiers—as of May 2019, this is no longer the case. There’s just one consolidated $20 plan. And as much as we like a variety of add-on choices, we appreciate sheer simplicity even more.
Combine Philo with another streaming service
If Philo doesn’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.
|50+ entertainment, sports, and local channels, plus YouTube Originals and an unlimited DVR.|
|Exclusive sports coverage, commentary, and documentaries.|
|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.
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, 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
Philo is compatible with these devices:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Apple TV
- Android TV
- iPhone, iPad
- Android phone, tablet (browser mode only)
- PC, Mac web browsers
Video and audio quality
Most of the streaming 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.
Our final take: Philo is a screaming streaming deal
For straight-up entertainment with a load of popular channels and a cloud DVR included, Philo is as cheap as streaming gets in 2019. Only the most basic Sling TV package comes close—with half the channels at five 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 most of the channels that other streamers are missing.
It’s almost as if Philo was designed that way. We’re not into corporate media conspiracies, but . . .