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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.

Cheapest (livestreaming)

Price: $20/mo.
Channels: 63
Editorial star rating: 3.66/5.00

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’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.

You get 63 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 pros and cons

Pros

  • Inexpensive pricing
  • Channels unavailable elsewhere
  • Unlimited cloud DVR

Cons

  • No sports channels
  • No local channels
  • Few add-ons or upgrades

Philo promotions and deals

Like most livestreaming TV services, Philo gives you a seven-day free trial to take it for a spin.

If you’re a WOW! Broadband customer in the Midwest or Southeast, Philo can be bundled with your service. It doesn’t net you a discount, but at least it’s convenient.

Philo plans

Swipe Left to See All →
PlanPriceLive channelsCloud DVRSimultaneous streamsDetails
Philo
$20/mo.63Unlimited (for 30 days)3

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

In 2020, Philo 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 don’t carry Viacom channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, or A+E networks like Lifetime, History, and VICE. Philo does—and on the cheap.

Alone, Philo is a great value—but, as a supplemental service, it really shines. 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. Don’t worry, the combo still usually adds up to less than a cable or satellite bill.

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.

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 Baroness Von Sketch Show, 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 streaming channels (partial list):

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • Cheddar News
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Cooking Channel
  • Discovery Channel
  • DIY
  • Food Network
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • History Channel
  • IFC
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • Logo
  • MotorTrend
  • MTV
  • MTV2
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nicktoons
  • OWN
  • Paramount Network
  • Science Channel
  • Sundance TV
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • TV Land
  • VH1
  • VICE
  • WeTV
  • Full Philo channel list

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.

Live sports

Nope, nada. The reason Philo’s streaming costs so little per month is the absence of sports channels, which are even pricier than Jerry Bruckheimer-produced cop dramas starring Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union (L.A.’s Finest—only on Spectrum).

Try fuboTV or ESPN+ for your streaming sports fix.

Local channels

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 TV, 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).

Channel add-ons

Philo only offers two premium add-on packages, but at least they’re inexpensive (which is totally Philo’s thing): You can add STARZ to your subscription for $9 a month, or EPIX for $6 a month.

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.

Swipe Left to See All →
YouTube TV
$64.99/mo.
ESPN+
$5.99/mo.
fuboTV
$64.99/mo.
85+ 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

Cloud DVR

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.

Multiple streams

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 TV 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:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Apple TV
  • Roku
  • Google Chromecast
  • Android TV
  • iPhone, iPad
  • Android phone, tablet (browser mode only)
  • PC, Mac web browsers

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.

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 livestreaming gets in 2020. 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 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 . . .

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