Cord-cutters now have more options than ever to cancel cable while still having access to their favorite cable channels. Online streaming services are the most popular. It can be hard to keep them all straight!
Philo TV was started in 2010 by two Harvard students. It was a project to convert OTA channels to digital and stream them to other computers. But it has only been since 2017 that Philo has been streaming live TV to customers. It has grown rapidly and stands as one of the top low-cost live TV streaming services in the industry.
But what does Philo provide and is it worth subscribing to? Our full Philo review will explore the service in-depth.
Table Of Contents
|✔ Low price||❌ Limited news|
|✔ Large number of channels||❌ No local channels|
|✔ 10 User profiles||❌ No sports channels|
|✔ Unlimited DVR|
Philo is an online streaming service for live TV. It offers a bundle of channels that you can watch live, over the internet – without cable. Its price is not only lower than cable — it’s lower than most streaming services. But Philo also offers less than the more complete streaming services.
Philo Plan Basics
Philo provides a very simple offer. They have one plan. There are a couple of add-ons available (see below). And that’s it.
|DVR length||30 days|
This is an impressive plan. In fact, it sounds too good to be true. But that’s only because these are the headline numbers. Digging a bit deeper, we find that Philo’s 63 channels are less impressive — especially for news junkies and sports fans. We’ll discuss this in-depth under Channels.
But if news and sports are not a problem for you, Philo is an excellent alternative to cable TV that gives you a lot of what you love about cable for an almost comically low price. It also relieves you of the need for a long-term commitment since Philo can be canceled at any time.
For more information on what is available, see our Philo Packages and Channels guide.
Philo Experience and Performance
Philo provides roughly what we’ve come to expect from a streaming service — and thus more than what comes standard with a cable or satellite plan.
- Video: Philo streams live TV at 720p and on-demand content at 1080p using 30 fps. These resolutions will be reduced if your internet connection can’t handle the bandwidth, but this shouldn’t be a problem with modern broadband internet service. Note that Philo doesn’t provide any 4K streaming.
- Audio: Philo delivers audio in stereo.
- Multiple users: Philo allows you to create 10 profiles on your account so that different members of your household can personalize their viewing experiences. They also provide three simultaneous streams so that different members of your household can watch different channels at the same time.
- Unlimited Cloud DVR Storage: Philo allows you to record as much as you like. The only limitation is that recordings are removed after 30 days.
Philo provides less device support than most of the bigger streaming services, but they still allow you to watch on the vast majority of smart TVs and devices. These include:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Amazon Fire Tablets
- Android Devices
- Apple TV
- Chromecast (Android only)
- Google TV (Android TV)
- iOS devices (eg, iPhone)
- Web Browser.
Philo also supports TV Everywhere.
There is no Philo password. When you enter your phone number or email address, Philo contacts you and confirms your access. That’s it!
What’s It Like To Use Philo?
In keeping with its general philosophy, Philo’s user interface is very simple. It works well but if you are scrolling a lot, looking for a particular channel or show, it’s a bit slow. On the other hand, the search function is fast and responsive, so it’s best to stick with it if possible.
The Philo home screen is filled with links to popular content. If you scroll down, it lists the movies and shows that you are in the middle of, as well as anything you’ve saved.
Below that, it lists “Trending Live,” “Recommended,” and various categories of content that you might be interested in.
The heart of the interface is the Guide. It lists all available channels in alphabetical order with current and future programming. You can scroll up to 12 days into the future. If you hover over the channel name, you can see the 12 days of programming on one screen by selecting “See More.” If you select “Fave,” the channel will be listed at the top of the Guide.
Top Playable gives you access to Philo’s on-demand library. It’s a bit confusing because everything is organized by channel. But as with the Guide, if you hover over the channel and select “See More,” you’ll find what you are looking for.
Saved is where all your recorded shows and movies are.
The discussion above specifically refers to Philo running in a Chrome web browser. We also tested Philo on an Android phone and an Amazon Fire TV Stick. On both these devices, the interface was faster and more responsive. It is also slicker.
The Philo app on either device was trivial to install. You just grab the app and tell the device to install it. After that, you enter your phone number or email address and Philo confirms you as discussed above.
The interfaces on these devices are very similar to the web interface. The Fire Stick is exactly the same in terms of set-up. On the Android app, the page navigation is at the bottom of the screen instead of the top. If you learn one interface, you should have no problem with the others.
Our experiences with customer support were good. There was virtually no wait and our questions were answered easily and accurately.
Philo Channels and Other Content
Philo is mostly a live TV streaming services but it also provides other content.
When it comes to on-demand content, most people think of Netflix or Amazon Prime. And especially when it comes to recently aired TV shows, Hulu is still king. But Philo is impressive when it comes to on-demand movies and TV shows. They offer 60,000 individual films and episodes.
Perhaps more impressive, Philo allows you to stream almost everything on any of its 63 channels for the 3 days following its last airing. This is a great feature for when you miss a show that has everyone buzzing.
Live TV Channel Lineup
Philo offers 63 live TV channels. We’ve subdivided them below. Note, however, that this is imperfect. Channels are constantly changing what they broadcast. And many do not fit neatly into a single category.
Information and News Channels
Although Philo doesn’t provide much news coverage, it does provide a few channels to keep you up-to-date on what’s going on.
- AccuWeather Network
- BBC World News
Philo offers a good selection of channels that provide scripted TV shows and movies. A lot of this content is also focused on reality shows. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are a big part of modern TV programming.
The lifestyle channels are filled primarily with reality shows, but often of a more useful sort than we often find. One channel of special note is Motor Trend, which focuses on all things automotive but also features racing events.
Although Philo doesn’t provide much in this category, the channels they offer are good.
There’s been a years long trend away from music programming but Philo offers a good selection of the channels that still focus on music.
Philo also offers 4 “extra channels.” These are channels you can get online for free but are integrated into the Philo Guide.
Three of these channels are live: Bloomberg Television, Cheddar, and Revry. Crackle is available on-demand only.
See our Philo Packages and Channels guide for more information.
Philo continues its philosophy of simplicity with its add-ons. There are just two:
- EPIX ($6/mo): You get three channels: EPIX, EPIX2, and EPIX Hits. These are mostly movie channels but also offer some original series and comedy/music specials.
- Starz ($9/mo): Comes with three channels: Starz, Starz Encore, and Starz Kids & Family. The first two are movie channels while the last also shows TV series.
What’s Missing From Philo?
Even signing up for Philo with the EPIX and Starz packages will only cost you $40/mo — the cost of a basic plan from the industry-leading low-cost streaming service Sling TV. So what’s the catch?
Philo is a bad fit for some subscribers. It lacks access to a lot of the content that is available from other services:
- Limited News: Philo provides two news-oriented channels and one weather channel. It provides no network affiliates (eg, ABC, Fox), network national streams (eg, NBC News NOW, CBS News), or cable news channels (eg, CNN, MSNBC). And there is no way to get around this by paying extra.
- No Local Channels: While you do get some news with Philo, they offer no local content at all.
- No Sports Channels: Philo does provide some access to live sports via channels like Motor Trend and Aspire TV. But this is very limited. The Philo channel lineup has no specialized sports networks (eg, NFL Network) or even general ones (eg, ESPN).
- Minimal Add-Ons and Premiums: Philo tops out at Epix and Starz — no options for additional channels, specialized bundles, or the higher-shelf premium channels like HBO and Showtime.
Solutions For Philo’s Weakspots
There are ways around Philo’s limitations. The most obvious is to set up an OTA antenna. If your only experience with OTA TV is from your childhood when reception was limited and bad, you will be surprised. OTA TV offers great high-definition viewing in many areas. And other than paying for some hardware, it’s free. See our guide, HDTV Without Cable for details.
If you don’t want to mess with antennas, there are other options. See our guide How to Watch Local Channels Without Cable.
Getting Started With Philo
It’s not necessary to guess if Philo is right for you. They offer a free 7-day trial so you can decide for yourself. The process is very easy. Here it is:
- Click here to go to the Philo website. It will open in a new tab so you can follow the instructions here.
- When the page loads, scroll down and click the green “Start free trial” button.
- A new page loads where you enter your phone number of email address. Below that, select the EPIX and Starz add-ons if you want them.
- Scroll down and enter your payment information. Note the date when the trial will end in case you wish to cancel. Click the Subscribe button (it changes color to green after your payment information is input).
- Philo will send you a code via email or text. Enter it and click the right arrow.
- That’s it! You are now in Philo with 7-days to try it out.
Clearly, Philo TV is not a good match for some users. News addicts and sports fans will see Philo almost like not having a streaming service. And for those focused on local coverage, Philo is even worse.
But a lot of TV viewers just want to watch some shows and the occasional movie. And if that’s you, there’s a lot to like about Philo. It provides a good selection of channels with excellent technical features for a low $25/mo fee. It’s hard to beat!
There are four full-featured live TV streaming services that dominate the market: DIRECTV STREAM, FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV. Almost all of them cost $69.99/mo. YouTube TV (the sole exception) still costs over twice what Philo does. If this review has convinced you that you should go this route, see our reviews:
- DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV): good support of local channels and access to many add-ons. But also more expensive than the others.
- FuboTV: unbeaten sports coverage and an all around great streaming service.
- Hulu + Live TV: good overall service but really excels at on-demand streaming of current TV series and includes ESPN+ and Disney+.
- YouTube TV: good streaming service similar to Hulu Live.
The most comparable streaming service to Philo is Sling TV. On the surface, Philo looks a lot better: more channels for less money. But this is deceptive. Sling TV offers two different plans, each for $40.00/mo.
Even though they don’t offer much more than half as many channels, they are better channels offering a mix of cable news, sports, and even Disney Channel.
And if you want local channels, Sling TV offers a bundle where you get the streaming plan along with an HD antenna where the local channels show up right in your Sling guide. So there’s no need to switch back and forth.
Is Philo worth it?
Philo is not the streaming service that we would choose but it isn’t meant for people who live and breathe TV. Regardless, Philo TV is definitely worth it. They provide a good product for a low cost. If they provide the channels you want, you should be very happy with it. Philo is a legit streaming service for people looking for basic cable TV channels.
How do I use the DVR on Philo?
Whenever you click on a show or movie from the Guide or Top Playable pages, you will see a screen providing basic information about it. On that screen, you can click the Save link. This will automatically record it. You can then watch it any time by going to the Saved page.
Is Philo better than Sling?
Sling TV costs more than Philo TV. We think that Sling TV is worth the extra money because of its news and sports channels as well as its ability to integrate live TV channels via an antenna. But if Philo provides all the live TV that you want, it’s a great deal! And its inclusion of 60,000 on-demand movies and TV show episodes makes it even better!
Is Philo better than Hulu?
Hulu offers two kinds of plans: live TV and on-demand. The live TV plan is certainly better but it costs over three times as much per month. The Hulu on-demand plan is a great deal if you want to watch particular TV shows and don’t care about watching them live. Philo provides elements of both these services but they really aren’t comparable.
Can I skip commercials on Philo?
Philo lets you skip around in your saved (live, not on-demand) movies and shows. How this is done depends on the device you are using. In a desktop web browser, you can use a scrolling bar. The Android app works the same way. The Amazon Fire Stick, however, uses standard fast-forward and fast-reverse buttons.
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