“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

TV Streaming Service Philo Raises $40 Million In Funding, Arrives On New Devices

by September 04, 2018
Philo TV

Philo TV

Over the last several years, many Americans have ditched their expensive cable and satellite packages, turning instead to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and other streaming services for their video entertainment needs. This trend of “cord-cutting” gained further momentum with the advent of live TV streaming from services, such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now. These virtual TV services provide access to live broadcasts from major networks and/or cable channels, supplementing the on-demand content available from Netflix and its ilk. In November of 2017, a new service called Philo was launched, aimed at cord-cutters looking to spend as little as possible to add basic cable channels to their entertainment arsenals. For just $16 per month, Philo offers about 40 channels of live cable TV, as well as virtual DVR functionality and on-demand content. Named after the American inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (whose pioneering work in the field of electronic television development included building the first fully functional video camera tube in 1927), the Philo streaming service recently launched apps for Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, expanding its potential audience by millions of viewers. It is also available on iOS devices, Roku streamers, some smart TVs, and via web browsers on Mac and PC. A dedicated Android app is in the works.

Many of the giant tech companies now have their own streaming TV offerings. Google has YouTube TV, and AT&T has both DirecTV Now and the new low-cost WatchTV service, which at $15 per month is Philo’s closest competition. Sony’s has PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV is owned by Dish Network. Philo, however, is backed by AMC Networks, A+E, Discovery, and Viacom. These smaller media companies run many of the cable channels made available by Philo’s streaming service — popular networks like Food Network, HGTV, TLC, Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon. Though they may not have the same deep pockets that the big tech giants enjoy, Philo’s backers recently put up $40 million in funding to help the fledgling service invest in new product features and expand the brand’s marketing reach. Philo is reportedly using some of the cash influx to develop “a socially-driven TV experience.”

For now, Philo offers what is known as a “skinny bundle” package. Unlike its more costly competitors, Philo doesn’t include sports and news channels. Philo figures that its customers can watch local networks for free via over-the-air broadcasts, and instead offers a fairly bare-bones package of around 40 cable channels, including Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, DIY, and Lifetime. It’s not as robust a selection as you’d get from DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue, but it costs less than half of what those services charge. Philo also provides DVR features and video-on-demand content that its competitors do not offer. For example, when you click on a live show that you want to watch on Philo, the program automatically starts at the beginning. Other services tune to the program in progress, potentially causing you to miss the beginning of a show. Episodes that have aired recently are available to watch on demand, so you can catch up on shows you might have missed before watching the latest episode live. The virtual DVR function allows you to save an unlimited number of shows to watch at a later time, and you can set Philo to record all future airings of a certain program, just as you would on a regular DVR. The only restriction is that recorded shows expire 30 days after their original air date. The programs do air with ads, but you can fast-forward through them — that’s something you can’t do on Hulu, for example. 

Competition is fierce in the fast-growing world of TV streaming. AT&T’s new $15-per-month WatchTV service has taken Philo’s place as the least expensive way to access basic cable channels, and it includes some networks that Philo doesn’t, such as CNN and TBS (which AT&T recently snatched up in its acquisition of Time Warner). Viacom’s networks, including Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, and MTV, are on Philo, but not on WatchTV, so choosing between them might be tricky. Other services offer more comprehensive channel lineups, but you can expect to pay between $35 and $60 per month.  Despite the competitive landscape for streaming services, Philo’s CEO Andrew McCollum is optimistic about the company’s future.

Our goal is to build a television service that people love,” he said in a recent statement. “The expansion onto Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV is a natural extension for us and allows many new people to discover and enjoy Philo, as well as expanding the viewing options for our existing subscribers. We’re thrilled with the response we’ve seen to Philo so far, but we’re always looking for ways to make it even better, and this is another big step forward in that direction.”

Are streaming services like Philo and its competitors offering enough to convince you to “cut the cord” and cancel your cable and satellite subscriptions? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.

About the author:
author portrait

Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

View full profile