Thanks to streaming services like Sling TV and YouTube TV and their over-the-top channel bundles, it's possible to cut the cord and still get live television channels wherever you please. Philo, formerly known as Tivli and backed by the likes of Mark Cuban, is just like those services, but with one very big perk: a lower price.
As with anything, however, you get what you pay for—and paying less means some noteworthy channels are missing in action. To that end Philo shuns traditional network channels and skimps on sports and their pricey package fees, but the end result is a skinny, entertainment-centric channel bundle that costs less than $20 a month to start. And that's with DVR support included.
Does that make Philo a great deal, or will this bundle be too slim to satisfy most users? Here's a look at what you'll find on Philo, how you can watch it, and what to expect from the service.
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How much does Philo cost?
Philo's base plan gets you 37 streaming channels and costs just $16 per month. That's less than Sling TV's $20/month Sling Orange package, which nets you 31 channels (albeit with a different lineup).
Looking for more? You can bump up to 47 total channels on Philo for $20 a month. You'll find a full listing of channels in the next section.
The channels stream live just like they'd air on a cable or satellite plan, and have commercials along the way. If you watch something on-demand, it'll also be punctuated by ad breaks. For example, I watched the movie Ghost Rider from the start via AMC, and there was a four-minute chunk of commercials after every 15-or-so minutes of the film.
Which channels are on Philo?
As mentioned, Philo's channel packages lack broadcast networks (like NBC and CBS) and also exclude sports channels—so you won't find ESPN, Fox Sports, or anything else in the mix. There also isn't a huge focus on news channels, although there are a couple in the base package.
Philo is more focused on entertainment channels, including popular options like Comedy Central, MTV, Food Network, Nickelodeon, HGTV, and AMC. The expanded $20 bundle adds a handful of extra channels, some of which are pretty niche in appeal.
These are the 37 channels available in the $16 bundle:
A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, Cheddar, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, DIY Network, Food Network, FYI, Game Show Network, HGTV, History, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Lifetime Movies, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., OWN, Paramount Network, Science Channel, Sundance TV, TeenNick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, Velocity, VH1, Viceland, WE tv
The $20/month package, meanwhile, adds these channels to the list above for a grand total of 46 channels:
American Heroes Channel, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live, Nicktoons
Philo offers a free seven-day trial via its website. You can try it for two days by just inputting a phone number, and can extend the rest of the free trial by adding a form of payment to your account.
How can I access Philo?
Personal channel preferences aside, here is where Philo's current deficiencies might push some people away from the still-growing service.
Currently, Philo is available via web and via an iPhone app, plus you'll find it on Roku set-top boxes, sticks, and TVs.
See a few gaps in there? Currently, Philo isn't available natively on Android (you can watch via Chrome), plus it's not on Apple TV, Android TV, or Amazon Fire boxes. You also won't find it on non-Roku smart TVs or any game consoles. Curiously enough, there isn't a native iPad app either, despite the Philo app for iPhone.
They'll fill a couple of those holes soon: the Android app is slated to launch soon, with Apple TV and Amazon Fire apps coming this summer. It's seemingly just a symptom of a small company expanding out bit by bit, but the slim set-top box access and lack of an Android or native iPad app might have some people second-guessing the service at this time.
What are Philo's key features?
Philo's biggest hook is the ability to watch a few dozen streaming channels for $20 or less per month, making it the cheapest of the live bundle services today. The selection isn't as broad as what you'll find on some other services, and it doesn't have a litany of add-on options like Sling TV—but it's cheap and focused. And you can always access network channels via an affordable HD antenna.
Unlike some competing services, the base bundle includes DVR support, letting you save any show for up to 30 days to view later from any device.
In addition to live channels and saved shows, there's also a fair bit of on demand content available—including recent episodes of shows and movies that recently aired on bundled channels.
Philo also lets you watch up to three simultaneous streams across multiple devices, and that's a standard feature on either bundle. Even a paid service like Hulu requires an additional fee to watch on more than one device at the same time.
Philo also recently rolled out TV Everywhere support, meaning that you can login to each channel's dedicated apps using your Philo info and access additional on-demand shows and other content. You'll find a full, up-to-date listing here of the supported channels and which platforms' apps you can use.
Why choose it over Sling TV or YouTube TV?
If you're cool with the channel lineup, then Philo seems like a heck of a deal: it's a solid chunk of live TV channels for $20 or less per month, complete with on-demand content, cloud DVR support, and three simultaneous streams.
Philo isn't for sports fans, serious news buffs, or anyone seeking streaming broadcast channels, and it lacks the kind of premium extras seen with some services' add-on packages. But if you're eager to keep tabs on some cable/satellite channels at a much lower monthly cost—and can get what you want from the channel lineup—then Philo might satisfy your needs.
That said, the meager device support is a major drawback at present, as you can't watch on an Apple TV, Android TV, or Amazon Fire TV device, plus a native Android app is still M.I.A. and the iOS app is only optimized for iPhones. Those drawbacks should be alleviated in time, however, and there's no doubt that Philo's core price-to-content offering is plenty appealing.
Ready to start your free seven-day trial? Head on over to sign up at Philo's website.
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