If you’re looking to cut the cord, you might be surprised by how much it costs to do so. You may need to invest in a streaming device like Roku or an Amazon Fire TV stick, then you’ll want to factor in a couple of subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go. And if you’re looking to add streaming live TV, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $70 a month.
That’s where Philo comes in. The new streaming TV service is a budget-friendly that gives you plenty of channels without breaking your bank. Here’s everything you need to know about Philo.
What is Philo?
Philo is a streaming TV service that focuses on entertainment, education, and lifestyle programming. Initially launched as a streaming TV solution for college campuses, Philo opened access to the general public in November 2017. Despite its budget price, Philo is a full-featured streaming TV solution, offering most of the perks of more established services.
How does Philo work?
No streaming service on the market is easier to try than Philo. Getting started with a free trial only requires a phone number—not a credit card. Once you’ve logged on Philo offers you four options: Home, Live, Saved, and Search. Home is a brief rundown of the shows you’ve been watching (including the option to pick up where you last left off, even if days later), trending live shows, and upcoming programming. The Live section gives you a grid listing of what’s playing at any given moment. Saved captures your DVR programs, while Search is self-explanatory.
One of the odd aspects of Philo is how it handles on-demand content. After a week of solid use, I found that the fastest way to get to the on-demand listings is to pick a channel from the Live section, press down on my remote, and select “More on this channel.” That brings up both a live schedule of what will be playing and a list of the top shows on the network. You can select from those top shows to find the episodes that are currently on-demand.
What devices support Philo?
The biggest strike against Philo is its lack of streaming options. At the moment you can only watch Philo on Roku, iOS, Android, or a web browser. However, while its streaming options are limited, each app is well designed. Learning to navigate around the Roku app has a learning curve, but once you’ve got the hang of things, Philo makes watching your favorite shows easy.
The standard Philo package comes with 37 channels, featuring a host of great entertainment options and a frustrating lack of news. Unlike many of its streaming competitors, Philo has a deal with Viacom, giving you streaming access to Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and other channels you won’t find elsewhere. The package is rounded out by popular favorites Discovery, A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and the Food Network.
As you can see, this isn’t a package for sports fans or news junkies. In fact, the only news channel you get with Philo is BBC World News. Then again, BBC World News is a great news channel, and it’s not oversaturated with commentary like so many American cable outlets. For an additional $4 per month, you can add nine additional channels that include BET Her, Cooking, Discovery Life, and Nicktoons.
One thing to note: Philo does not offer local channels. You’ll want to invest in an HD antenna to supplement Philo. You might also want to look into alternative ways to watch ESPN online.
How much does Philo cost?
Here’s where Philo sells itself. The basic 37-channel package is just $16 per month. Philo’s basic package is the cheapest streaming TV solution around, with roughly 10 more channels than the starting package of its nearest competitor, Sling TV.
Is Philo worth it?
Philo certainly won’t meet the needs of everyone, but for the money, it’s easily one of the best streaming services on the market. With a starting price below anything else out there, Philo is the ideal budget streaming TV option for people who miss cable. The lack of news and sports channels is a significant issue, but between websites and local over-the-air channels, it’s possible to make up the deficit—and with the money you’re saving, it’s easier to justify.
It’s evident from the channel listing that this service started off aimed at college students, but no matter what time of day you tune in, there’s always something good on. Best of all, there’s no reason not to try it out. Just give Philo your phone number and keep your credit card to yourself. If you’ve always wanted to dip your toe in the waters of streaming TV, Philo is the best way to do it.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.