Everything you need to know about Philo TV

Joe Supan
JS
Joe Supan
Sep 27, 2019
ProsConsVerdict
✔ Half the price of most live TV streaming services ✔ Unlimited DVR storage ✔ Three simultaneous streams✘ No sports or local channels ✘ No popular news channels ✘ Frustrating mobile appPhilo is the only skinny bundle to include DVR storage, but others have better channel lineups for cheaper.

Philo TV review summary:

  • One plan for $20/mo.
  • No sports or local channels
  • Three simultaneous streams
  • Unlimited cloud DVR storage that deletes after 30 days
  • Solid user experience

What is Philo TV?

When it comes to live TV streaming services, there are two distinct flavors. Some aim to save you money and others replicate cable TV packages, charging you money for a lot of channels you don’t watch. (According to research from Nielsen, Americans only watch 20 of the 206 channels they receive on average.)

Philo is firmly in the “saving you money” camp. At only $20/mo., it’s less than half the price of most live TV streaming services and cable companies. But to get to that low price point, you’ll have to make some sacrifices.

No sports, no local stations and only one news channel — essentially all the TV that necessitates live viewing.

But if you don’t really care about sports, Philo plus a TV antenna (or Locast if it’s in your area) provides a ton of value for the price. And unlike it’s skinny bundle competitor, AT&T Watch TV, you’ll get perks like unlimited DVR storage and three simultaneous streams.

Philo TV channels

Because Philo skips out on the most expensive channels to carry — ESPN alone charges distributors around $8/mo. — it can afford to build an impressively well-rounded channel lineup. In fact, it has more total channels than the $50/mo. plans from AT&T TV NOW and PlayStation Vue.

Here are the major channels included in its $20/mo. plan, broken into categories:

LocalsNone
SportsNone
ComedyComedy Central IFC TV Land
DramaAMC BBC America BET Hallmark Lifetime Paramount Sundance TV
NewsBBC World News Cheddar News
FamilyNickelodeon Nick Jr. Teen Nick
EducationalAnimal Planet Discovery History Science
RealityA&E Cooking Channel Destination America Food Network HGTV Investigation Discovery MTV OWN TLC Travel Channel VH1 WETV
MusicAXS TV CMT

What channels is Philo TV missing?

If a channel airs live sports or news programs, Philo probably doesn’t have it. Here are some of the biggest names that aren’t available:

  • ABC
  • Bravo
  • Cartoon Network
  • CBS
  • Cinemax
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • The CW
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Jr.
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • FOX
  • FOX News Channel
  • Fox Sports 1
  • Freeform
  • FX
  • FXX
  • HBO
  • ION
  • MLB Network
  • MSNBC
  • Music Choice
  • National Geographic
  • NBA TV
  • NBC
  • NBC Sports Network
  • NFL Network
  • Oxygen
  • PBS
  • Showtime
  • Syfy
  • TBS
  • TCM
  • TNT
  • truTV
  • USA Network
  • The Weather Channel

It’s a long list.

Some of these are easy fixes, though. ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW are all available for free, whether it’s through a TV antenna or the streaming service Locast.org, which streams local channels for free in multiple cities across the country.

Others, like HBO, Showtime and Cinemax are never included in the base plans of live TV streaming services. (AT&T TV NOW is the one exception; HBO is included in all of its plans.) If you want these, you’ll always have to pay extra, and you can still subscribe to them separately from Philo.

That said, it’s still a very long list. To take advantage of Philo’s low price, you’ll have to make plenty of sacrifices.

No add-ons

Unlike most live TV streaming services, Philo doesn’t give you any options for customizing your channel lineup. You’re stuck with the 58 channels in its lineup, for better or worse.

Philo vs. other skinny bundles

Philo has two primary competitors in the skinny bundle category: AT&T Watch TV for $15/mo. and Sling’s two $25/mo. plans. Which one is right for you comes down to a few key questions. Do you need any sports channels? How important is FX to you? Would you rather have Nickelodeon or Disney Channel?

To evaluate how each skinny bundle compared, we utilized TiVo’s recent Video Trends Report, which asked 3,330 respondents, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” The more people wanted a channel included, the higher it ranked.

For most people, Philo probably doesn’t offer the best channel lineup. It has fewer channels in the top 25 and 50 than AT&T Watch TV, and it costs $5 more per month. Likewise, if you’re willing to pay a bit more, Sling Blue has nearly twice as many channels in the top 25 as Philo.

Here’s how the top 50 channels in TiVo’s survey compare between the skinny bundles:

PhiloAT&T Watch TVSling OrangeSling Blue
Bravo E! Fox FS1 FX FXX Nat Geo NBC NBC Sports NFL Network SyFy USA
A&E AMC BBC America Comedy Central Food Network HGTVInvestigation Discovery History Lifetime
Animal Planet Hallmark MTV Nickelodeon TV Land
Cartoon Network CNN TBS TNT
Disney Channel ESPN Freeform
Discovery TLC
Cooking Channel
Paramount
TruTV
Travel Channel

Of course, the channels included in the streaming service aren’t the only consideration. Philo provides extra perks that none of the other skinny bundles can match. It’s the only one that includes cloud DVR storage for free, and you can stream on as many as three devices at the same time.

Solid user experience

To gauge what it felt like to use Philo, we tested it out for about a week on an Amazon Fire TV Stick, a Roku Streaming Stick and a Google Chrome browser on a MacBook Pro. While it doesn’t necessarily push the envelope, we enjoyed Philo’s easy-to-navigate interface.

As soon as you enter the app, the home screen real estate is primarily given over to “trending” live programs. Click down a bit, and you’ll find personalized recommendations to Philo’s live and on-demand programming.

After a few days of testing, we found ourselves wishing this personalization applied to the live TV channels, too. Instead of showing us what’s “trending live,” we would have liked to see the channels that we actually watch. If we’re constantly going to Animal Planet, why not put it right on the home screen instead of making us go through the guide?

We also wish Philo allowed you to keep watching TV while you channel-surf. If you want to see what else is on, you have to leave your current program, go to the guide and do your searching from there.

One thing we did love? When you’re browsing titles, you can hold down the “OK” button on your remote to bring up a short description of the title. It sounds like a small detail, but we enjoyed being able to get more information about what was playing without actually changing the channel.

Aside from that, using Philo felt pretty neutral. It didn’t wow us like YouTube TV or actively annoy us like AT&T TV NOW. The guide is one of the more basic we’ve encountered, but it was easy to do the things that matter.

We had no problem finding what we were looking for, saving shows to the DVR or browsing Philo’s on-demand library. And ultimately, when it comes to TV streaming, we’d prefer boring and functional to cutting-edge and glitchy.

Video quality

Philo streams its live TV in 720p and its on-demand content in 1080p. This is still HD, but it’s likely less than you’d get through a cable TV provider. That said, every live TV streaming service currently streams in 720p, so this isn’t necessarily a negative for Philo. We found the video quality to look pretty sharp and detailed in our testing.

Access to TV Everywhere apps

In addition to Philo’s 30,000 on-demand titles, you’ll also get access to the standalone apps from many of the channels in its lineup. These can be used to watch Philo channels on devices that it doesn’t support, like Xbox One and Chromecast, or to get extra content from your favorite shows.

Here’s the complete list of channels with TV Everywhere apps and the devices with which they’re compatible:

Mobile app

Philo’s mobile app uses a similar design to its streaming device apps, with one exception: Instead of a traditional TV guide showing multiple time slots for each channel, the app only shows the program currently playing. Aside from that, our experience with the mobile app was smooth, with no notable performance or navigation issues.

It also has one extremely annoying quirk. When you click on a live show to watch, Philo takes you to the beginning of the program instead of where it is in real time. If you try to fast forward to the present, you’ll likely get stuck watching commercials before you can jump ahead.

Users have generally not been thrilled with Philo’s apps, either. It has a 3.7 rating on both the App Store and Google Play. If streaming on-the-go is important to you, Sling’s mobile apps have much more positive reviews.

Generous extra perks

Out of the skinny bundles, Philo’s extra perks are by far the best. It’s the only one to include cloud DVR storage for free, and it also allows for streaming on up to three devices at one time. If you live in a family that wages war over the remote, Philo is worth the price of admission for this alone.

PhiloAT&T Watch TVSling OrangeSling Blue
Price$20/mo.$15/mo.$25/mo.$25/mo.
Total number of channels58413247
Simultaneous streams3113
DVR storageUnlimited (stores for 30 days)None50 hours ($5/mo.)50 hours ($5/mo.)

Philo FAQs

Which streaming devices are compatible with Philo?

Philo is compatible with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TVs version 5.0 or higher. That’s a much shorter list than most live TV streaming services. Notably missing are Google Chromecast, Xbox One, PlayStation Four and a bunch of smart TVs.

What internet speed do I need for Philo?

Philo recommends a minimum of 3 Mbps download speeds for SD quality, 7 Mbps for HD and 13 Mbps for HD streaming if other devices are connected to the network. Keep in mind, the more devices connected at once, the higher speeds you’ll need for reliable streaming. Not sure what you’re currently getting? Use our speedtest below to find out.

Can you fast forward through commercials on Philo?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to sit through commercials on Philo. Live TV streaming services operate just like traditional cable or satellite TV providers, and that means dealing with advertisers. That said, if you save shows to Philo’s cloud DVR, you are able to fast forward — just not during live TV.

Will Philo save me money?

If you’re currently paying for cable or satellite TV, Philo will almost certainly save you money. However, it might not be as much as you think. Because providers usually offer generous discounts for bundling internet and TV service, live TV streaming services are at a disadvantage.

Here are some common packages and how they compare in price to Philo over a year of service:

PhilofuboTVXFINITY (Starter Pro Double Play)Spectrum (TV Select + Internet)AT&T Internet + DIRECTV
Monthly TV + internet cost$20 (TV) + $60* (internet)$55 (TV) + $60* (internet)$90$90$75 year one, $121 year two
Installation feeNoneNoneUp to $60Up to $200Up to $99
Equipment rental feeNoneNone$13/mo.$5/mo.None
Contract lengthOne monthOne monthOne yearOne yearTwo years
Estimated year one costs$960$1,380$1,296$1,340$999 ($1,452 year two)
Number of channels5899140+125+155+

In most cases, you’ll end up saving around $300 per year by switching to a skinny bundle like Philo.

Is Philo worth it?

It depends on what kind of TV person you are. If you don’t care about live sports, you should not be paying for cable TV or a live TV streaming service more than $25/mo.

But sports aside, Philo is still best reserved for hardcore cord cutters. It doesn’t come with ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC, so you’ll probably want to supplement it with a TV antenna or Locast.org.

Even with locals, AT&T Watch TV ($15/mo.) and Sling Blue ($25/mo.) both have better channel lineups than Philo ($20/mo.). Where Philo closes that gap is with its unlimited DVR storage and three simultaneous streams.

The bottom line? If you really want to save money by cord cutting, you should go with a skinny bundle. The best choice just might not be Philo.

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