Will Philo Replace Your Cable TV Subscription?

Category: Television

Are you bored with broadcast TV networks like CBS, NBC, and ABC? Are you tired of paying the a big chunk of your cable or streaming TV bill for sports channels that you never watch? Then you may be interesting in trying Philo’s new “over-the-top” streaming service that costs a fraction of what YouTube TV, Hulu Live, and others charge.

Philo is Greek for "Love"

For just $16/month, Philo delivers 37 cable TV networks - including A&E, Scripps, Discovery, BBC America and BBC World News, AMC, A&E, HGTV, SCI, Comedy Central, NICK, and more - to your web browser, smart TV, tablet, or phone, including Android and iOS devices. You can record shows on Roku, too. By comparison, Hulu Live costs $40 and YouTube TV, $35.

You won’t get ESPN (or any other sports network), any Disney- or Fox-owned channels, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, or The CW. But for another $4 ($20/month total), you can add The Cooking Channel, Discovery Life, Destination America, MTV Live, Logo, and Nicktoons. That’s 46 channels for less than $0.50 each! Are you feeling the love?

The cable TV portion of my "triple play" package is $35/month. But in addition to the extra $10/month for the cable box rental, they tack on a $4 "Broadcast TV surcharge" and another $7 "Sports TV surcharge." (Broadcast TV is all the local channels you'd get for free, if you had an antenna.) I almost never watch those channels, and those surcharges are irksome to people who don't.

What is Philo TV?

Philo, which started out selling cheap “skinny bundles” of TV channels to college students, has received $25 million in funding from A&E, Scripps, Discovery, AMC and Viacom. These networks are known in the TV industry as “the loser bundle” because they are not usually bundled into the “must take” subscriptions offered by cable TV operators such as Comcast. They lose out on that opportunity to be rammed down consumers’ throats. So they are pleased to be the core of Philo, at a price that should make the “winners” tremble.

If Philo catches fire among a broader base of viewers, it may erode the prices that sports networks are able to charge, and perhaps persuade other service providers that they don’t need sports to sell subscriptions. Either of these possibilities could reduce monthly bills for cable, satellite, and streaming TV consumers.

The NFL, NBA, MLB, and individual teams may have to re-think their positions in the entertainment world, and lower ticket prices as well as TV licensing fees. Local blackouts might be on the table, too.

It's true that "philo" comes from Greek and denotes liking or loving. Used in various prefix and suffix forms, it's where we get get words like "bibliophile" (book lover) and "philanthropy" (love of humankind). But I suspect that "Philo" in the context of this article is a hat tip to Philo T. Farnsworth, an American inventor and pioneer of television technology in the 1920s.

No Frills, at Least For Now

Philo is launching without fancy apps and other accoutrements of Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire devices. The company plans to add those later, along with “social TV” features such as the ability to sync what you and your circle of friends are watching, so you can sit alone at home and still swap comments with your pals.

Meanwhile, Amazon TV has decided not to offer its own “skinny bundle” because it hasn’t been able to figure out how to make a profit from such a venture. That’s surprising, given Amazon’s lifelong tradition of doing things first and then figuring out how to make it profitable.

If you want to try Philo, you can get one week of free access. Your credit card will not be charged if you cancel before the end of your 7 day free trial.

What do you think of Philo’s chances? Would you give up Monday Night Football, cable news, and your local broadcast channels to save more than half of your cable TV bill every month? What are your favorite channels, and do you see them in Philo’s lineups?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Will Philo Replace Your Cable TV Subscription?"

(See all 37 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

Why are you renting a cable modem, Bob? Does your provider require it? I bought my own modem, told my provider the MAC number, and they activated it. Been doing that for over 20 years. I pay zero rental fees.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

Check out the TVFox on facebook modern gizmo http://moderngizmo.com-cdn.co/en/tvfox/011.php

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

@Mike, yeah, you can get FoxNews through any number of services but FoxNews also has a free channel on ROKU. It's great for watching the shows that were broadcasted during the evening after I get home from an event.
I need to amend my previous statement. If you want to just watch segments on the ROKU FoxNews channel, it is called "Show Clips" and not "segments" as I stated before.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

We have had Cox cable here in Las Vegas for years and I've constantly complain about paying for 90% of the channels that we never watch. With all the new choices available on deals to cut the cable, it's hard to figure out what is the best deal. It seems as if nothing really is the best option. Sitting in front of the TV is a waste of one's time and brainpower.

Posted by:

Dave S
20 Nov 2017

There's also the use of installing Kodi on a Firestick or other device (doesn't work on Roku). You can download builds or addons and watch for free....or at least for a short time as the movie industry is starting to clamp down on the providers.

It's not the same as Napster was years ago because we're not downloading or recording the shows...just streaming them. But I've cut out the cable channels and just use Kodi, Hulu and Netflix (although with Kodi, you don't really need Hulu or Netflix).

So, unless Bob (or someone else) can comment my belief is that right now this falls into a gray area of not being allowed but not being officially prohibited.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You say "It's not the same as Napster because we're not downloading or recording the shows...just streaming them." Hmmm, how is that different from sneaking into a movie theater and watching without paying? Does it really matter if you retain the content?

Posted by:

Joseph K
20 Nov 2017

Wouldn’t watch Fox News if you paid me but I need CNBC, the MLB Network, and I’ve started watching the NFL again after some years of indifference. I can get all I want and need on DirectTv Now at a much lower cost than cable or satellite. Informative article though. Thanks.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

No channels are offered that I particularly like. Maybe someone can answer this: we are looking for a way to get MEtv so we can cut the cable. But haven't found a way to get it anywhere. If anyone has a suggestion, please advise. It sort of lies between local channels, antenna etc.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

To SharonH: MEtv is available over the air here in the Los Angeles area....I think it is on one of the sub-channels.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2017

To SharonH: MEtv is also available over the air in Salt Lake City area. It is channel 4-2. It is amazing how many sub-channels are available over the air.

Posted by:

mike p
20 Nov 2017

Hi Bob,

As with many other of your articals, there is one big problem: it is available fo the USA audience only! Please make that clear at the begining of your reviews, so we don't waste time and/or get our hopes too high...

Best regards,


Posted by:

Michael Hampshire
21 Nov 2017

You keep telling us all the great ways to cut the cord but how do you do it when you only get internet thru Hughes Net. To get enough data to do what you suggest would be three times what Directtv is. Any suggestions on that?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Move to a place where you can get high-speed Internet from a wire. Sorry, that's all I got.

Posted by:

Skipper Gaston
21 Nov 2017

If I can't get Fox News, I'm not interested; however, I would be interested in almost any combo that would contain Fox News...

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think YouTube TV has Fox News.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2017

Time to fess up:
We have Spectrum (was TWC) connection in the house.
The service includes:
*Their top-tier subscription (200+ channels or sumsuch),
*Showtime/Cinemax/HBO, all the sports channels,
*Commercial/DJ free music stations (near 100 channels),
*6-tuner (1TB) DVR,
*VoIP telephone service (+ 4 cordless phones),
*300Mbps network service (we own the DoCSIS3 modem/router),
*Smartphone streaming apps, and
*Free WiFi, all over US.
We pay $160 total.
I don't even think bolt-cutters can cut this 'cord' at similar price, angst, content.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2017

Nothing on the Philo lineup I even watch. Same with SlingTV. I want the ability to SELECT my own channels! PERIOD!

Posted by:

Bob K
21 Nov 2017

I don't care for the channel selection, however, the one positive is the absence of Fox News.
A must for me is the Smithsonian channel.

Posted by:

21 Nov 2017

Thanks to those who responded to my MEtv question. It is a sub-channel of a Northern NJ station. But if I go about 60 miles south, it's not available at all. It's sort of almost a must have since we watch Svengoolie....

I also agree with the person who loves the Smithsonian Channel. It is one of my favorites as well. We had a 6 foot dish in our front yard (yes, that long ago) and besides fun feeds (those reporters sure can curse before they go live) we could get channels ala carte. I believe since Day 1 of cable/dish most of us simply want to choose our own channels, but it doesn't work that way and probably never will. Philo seems to not have much going for it.

Posted by:

Jay R
22 Nov 2017

Certainly No Believable Content. I sure don't watch that one. Actually, I don't watch TV. Not in my place. If I ever get too decrepit to work, I might look into Philo. When I was young, I use to watch the Philo Silvers Show. Maybe it will be included when that time arrives. It has occurred to me that this is one of the very few useful emails that I get....and save. Thanx, Bob

Posted by:

Jay R
22 Nov 2017

Oh! More Greek words for love- agapao, stergo, and eros. I had that philo was dough, but, in truth, I didn't know how to spell phyllo.

Posted by:

26 Nov 2017

Very interesting Bob. This gives me hope that there may eventually be an Ala Carte where you can choose your stations.

Currently I have a TIVO OTA, netflix, Amazon. Just today I added Sling TV. I will keep it just long enough to get through the college bowl season and then will cancel it again. Haven't watched a pro game since the knees hit the ground. Dropped DirecTV several years ago. Haven't missed much.

Truth is, life can pass you by while watching all those channels. I won't live long enough to watch all those shows on Netflix and Amazon.

Thanks Bob

Posted by:

17 Feb 2021

To update anyone reading in fed 2021, We have been using philo for a month now and gotta say we are canceling. DVR almost never works, basically all of the stations they offer can be accessed (on roku anyway) free of charge. So why pay for it and be stuck watching ad's? (If I'm paying any amount I refuse to sit through ad's)

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