Philo is a surprisingly good live TV streaming service for the price. Granted, the channel lineup is not going to suit everyone, but if an individual or household finds the channel selection does meet their live TV needs, there’s no real reason to look elsewhere as it will likely check all of the other boxes as well.
With the price set at $25 per month, Philo is designed to be an affordable live TV streaming solution. However, there’s no escaping how the monthly price affects the channels that Philo offers, and the channel lineup is likely to be the major stumbling block for some. For everyone else, the combination of a low price, a reliable app experience and an unlimited cloud DVR makes Philo a great choice for streaming live TV over the internet.
Philo is a good Live TV streaming service for those looking for a more affordable option than the likes of Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV. The major downside with Philo is the channel lineup. Although the selection of channels may suit some households, it won’t meet the needs of others, and especially those looking for access to local live TV or sports channels.
Easy to use
No local channels
Not for sports fans
Limited device support
Philo does offer good value overall, but it is worth understanding just what a household will get before signing up to the service. Below is a more in-depth look at our experience with Philo’s live TV, on-demand catalog, and the cloud DVR.
Live TV and on demand content
Philo provides subscribers with access to more than 60 channels. The selection has been adjusted multiple times in the past with some added and others removed. While the exact number may vary depending on when a consumer signs up, it is generally safe to assume that there will always be at least 60 live TV channels available to watch with an active Philo subscription. However, the quantity of the channels is going to be less of an issue than the quality. That’s not to say that the channel lineup is bad, it’s not. It’s just not quite as premium as some may want or expect from a live TV streaming service, even though that’s exactly how Philo is able to maintain its low subscription cost.
For a number of households, the channel lineup may prove to be more than enough as many of what some will consider to be essential channels are included. For example, many of the Discovery channels, including Food Network and HGTV, are included, as are all of the Hallmark channels as well as popular Paramount networks, such as Comedy Central, Paramount Network, MTV and Nickelodeon.
The live TV access is only half of what Philo has to offer, with the other half being on-demand content. In general, there are no major issues with the on-demand library which is filled with plenty of movies, shows, and other programming. Subscribers also have the option to access and watch extra content directly through a network’s own app thanks to the TV Everywhere support that Philo offers. This is not a complete level of support, however, as the option to log in to a network’s app is only provided for roughly half of the channels included with a subscription.
Philo also does provide the option to add some premium networks, although the list of available choices is severely limited at the moment. Essentially, there’s the option to add Starz, Epix or a ‘Movies & More’ add-on. The latter of which adds a small number of entertainment channel at an additional monthly cost. In general, if price is the main selling point with Philo, the channels is the main weak point.
App support, experience and ease of use
It would be fairly natural to assume the app experience might not be up to par when considering the price, but the Philo apps are surprisingly good and certainly reliable. Live TV streams in 720p, which is unfortunate and especially as there’s no option to improve the quality. In contrast, on-demand content is available to watch in 1080p. Regardless of the quality, there were no major issues in terms of the consistency and reliability when streaming.
With support for Apple TV, Android TV, Fire TV and Roku, and the option to watch through a web browser, there are no major or obvious issues with streaming player support. Where subscribers may run into problems is when trying to download Philo on a smart TV from a specific brand, such as Samsung, LG or Vizio. Essentially, unless a smart TV is powered by one of the major operating systems, consumers will need to use an additional streaming player or consider a different live TV service that supports their smart TV brand.
The interface is fairly easy to use and surprisingly attractive. While the latter statement is highly subjective, the point is Philo does appear to have spent a good amount of time thinking about the user experience, even down to the design of the cast menu. Put simply, it is an appealing and eye-catching design even though that’s not a reason to subscribe by itself.
In terms of functionality, there are no major complaints to note. While the app is well designed, some may find it to be a little basic in places. The app opens up to the home screen where users are presented with a row-based system that prioritizes Keep Watching, Saved (recordings), Trending Live and Recommended rows before then moving to genre and topic-related sections, such as DIY, Reality Roundup and Throwbacks. The top-level menu options consist of Home, Guide, Top, Saved, Search and Settings, making it easy to jump between the main categories.
While there’s nothing wrong with the home screen, it can be a little time-consuming to find content, unless it just happens to surface close to the beginning of a row or at the top of the screen. Of course, users can manually search for content and the search feature works well, but the lack of predictive text – another example of the basic approach – slows searches down. Predicted results will start to show from the first letter of a search, but unless it happens to be one of the first results shown, predictive text would be more helpful.
The live TV guide follows a similar pattern. It looks great overall, and is easy to use, but lacks some of the premium and advanced design elements found with more expensive services, such as YouTube TV. On the Guide page, consumers can see what’s on now and next, and scroll forward to see what’s due to be shown live soon. However, the scrolling forward is not a full 7-day guide and tends to only be for the next couple of day. Due to this, some may find the live TV guide a little more limiting when wanting to plan ahead.
Each guide entry is presented as a card and users can either click/tap quickly to see program details or hold to immediately jump in and start watching. If accessing the details page, then the user is offered multiple options, including playing the program, saving (recording) for playback later, viewing other episodes (or more info if it’s a movie or single event), as well as checking out what additional content is available from the same channel. All of which makes each card a highly useful and easy to use navigation tool.
Depending on the platform and device, some subscribers may find the experience differs slightly from what’s described above. However, there will only be slight variations with the Philo experience largely consistent across operating systems as well as across TV, mobile and desktop.
Cloud DVR and additional streams
When it comes to the additional elements of the experience, Philo doesn’t disappoint here either. For example, the cloud DVR. The option to record videos is not new or specific to Philo, but while other services tend to limit how much can be recorded, Philo doesn’t. All subscribers are able to record as many movies and shows as they want. Although Philo did previously limit the storing of recordings to 30 days, that’s also changed. Now Philo subscribers (except those locked to the cheaper $20 price) can store DVR recordings for an entire year, with all of their recordings located under the Saved tab.
Depending on how long ago an episode or movie was shown live, subscribers may not even need to bother with recordings. This is due to Philo also offering a 72-hour “rewind” feature. Essentially, subscribers can go back in time and watch anything shown within the previous 72 hours, regardless of whether it was recorded or not.
Technically, this is not a rewind feature, as you cannot rewind. Instead, there’s a More option which allows the user to visibly see what was shown during the last 72 hours and click on any of the listings to start watching. As to be expected, there are some restrictions with the feature, but it is generally as described and a useful addition for those that don’t want to unnecessarily add to their DVR library, or have missed a recent broadcast.
Compared to the price and the channels, simultaneous streams is often an area that’s overlooked by consumers even though it is just as important. Simultaneous streams directly impacts on how many devices can access the service at once. In Philo’s case, subscribers can stream on up to three devices at the same time. Although that’s not necessarily a lot, and especially as other services have started increasing this limit, it still should be sufficient for many homes.
Price and overall value
Philo costs just $25 per month and this is both a positive and negative, depending on the needs of the user. For those that just want access to live TV then the service offers great value. This is even more true when taking into account the unlimited cloud DVR and the ability to stream on multiple devices at the same time. Both of which are likely to prove beneficial to larger families and busier households.
However, for those wanting a richer live TV experience, the service lacks in comparison to others and that’s a direct result of the lower cost. What makes matters worse for those more is the general lack of additional options and upgrades. Philo only offers one subscription tier with no ability to pay more and upgrade.
Philo is essentially a service that adopts a very clear ‘all or nothing’ approach where subscribers pay a low price and pretty much gain access to mostly everything Philo has to offer. While this will be fine for some, it will directly impact on the value for others. This is especially true for those interested in local channels and live sports. If locals or live sports are a high priority for an individual or household then Philo is not going to be the right live TV service.
Philo review summary
With access to many essential channels, an unlimited cloud DVR and a reliable app experience, consumers will be hard-pressed to find a better package at just $25 per month. The closest in value is Sling TV although Sling’s live TV service also has its own unique issues and limitations, including the channel selection and a limited recording experience.
Overall, Philo is a service worth checking out. The price is great and so is the experience in general. The major issue, and what will ultimately decide whether Philo is the right service, is the channel selection. If the channels included are enough for an individual or household then Philo is well worth the subscription cost.