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Get It or Skip It? Frndly TV

Frndly TV offers a good selection of channels at a decent price, but don't expect many perks for $8 a month.

Frndly TV offers a good selection of channels at a decent price, but don't expect many perks for $8 a month.

Streaming service Frndly TV has made a nice name for itself by offering a handful of general entertainment and knowledge channels for a ridiculously low price.

When the service launched in 2019, it was hardly worth mentioning: Frndly TV carried just a handful of channels from a few specialty programmers that catered mainly to niche television viewers.

Back then, it was hard to see how Frndly TV would compete in a sea of streaming cable television replacements, many of whom offered access to top-tier networks like CNN, Fox News, ESPN and Discovery — none of which are carried on the service.

But things changed late last year when Frndly TV announced a deal to carry channels offered by A+E Networks, the entertainment joint venture run by the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Television. With that deal, Frndly TV was able to bring A&E, the History Channel, Lifetime and Vice TV into the mix.

Suddenly, Frndly TV became a more-compelling product — the service finally offered recognizable, traditional cable channels and managed to do so without raising subscription prices too much. As time went on, Frndly TV added digital broadcast networks from Weigel TV, including Me TV, Story TV and Decades, which created even more value for its programming package. And it incorporated additional features like an unlimited cloud DVR that stores content for between three and nine months, depending on how much a user is willing to pay, which made it more-convenient for subscribers to watch what they wanted, when they wanted.

Today, Frndly TV bills itself as “the most-affordable live TV streaming service” around. It’s hard to argue with that: Its basic programming package costs just $7 a month and includes access to all 40 networks carried by the service (which include, among others, the Weather Channel, three Hallmark cable channels, the Game Show Network and Heartland TV). And, like other streaming services, Frndly TV allows customers to watch live and recorded television on a number of devices beyond the TV set, including smartphones and tablets.

But that isn’t to say Frndly TV will appeal to everyone: Take a closer look at its programming line-up, and you’ll start to notice that it feels very…similar. Closely related. As if it’s intended to appeal to a particular demographic. That appears to be a deliberate decision by Frndly TV’s executives, who say they’re building a service that caters to the interests of its customers. The statement comes across as an admission that Frndly TV is leaning into a particular customer base with its programming selections. Which is a fine business strategy, but one that is going to make some prospective customers go with a competitor.

So the question is: Are you the kind of customer that Frndly TV is going to appeal to? I’ll try to help you answer that with three reasons why you should get Frndly TV, and three reasons why you may want to pick another company.

Frndly TV's electronic program guide makes it easy to find channels and content to watch.
Frndly TV’s electronic program guide makes it easy to find channels and content to watch. (Image via Frndly TV app, Graphic by The Desk)

Get It…

…if you mostly watch reality-based entertainment and knowledge shows.

If you have cable, satellite or a streaming service right now, and you find yourself gravitating to shows in the military history, true crime or classic TV genre, then Frndly TV is really going to appeal to you.

History buffs will love the History Channel, Military History, Story Television and the Curiosity Channel, while fans of true crime and scripted dramas will find plenty of it on A&E, Vice TV, Heroes & Icons and Start TV.

All of Frndly TV’s 40-plus cable and digital networks are offered in each one of its three subscription packages. What makes each package different are the features available with each. The Basic tier, which costs $7 a month, only offers access to standard definition video streams from each channel. There’s no way to record programs on the Basic package, and customers are limited to watching Frndly TV on just one device at a time.

The Classic package, which costs $9 a month, offers high-definition video quality and the ability to watch on two devices at once, which is perfect for families with kids who want to watch different shows at any given time. The Classic package also unlocks Frndly TV’s cloud DVR feature, which stores an unlimited number of recordings for at least three months beyond each show or movie’s air date.

The Premium package costs $11 a month and bumps up the number of devices that can access Frndly TV to four at one time, while expanding the cloud DVR to save recordings for nine months beyond each show or movie’s air date instead of three months.  Like the Classic package, the Premium package offers high-definition video streams.

…if you want to move your dad or grandpa away from cable or satellite.

Many older TV viewers still subscribe to expensive cable or satellite packages because they’ve nailed down how it works: The guide isn’t too complicated, they know every channel number by heart, and while the overall experience may be basic, it’s also easy for them to use.

Frndly TV replicates the best part of the cable or satellite experience, but without the cost. While their electronic program guide (EPG) may not look as polished as some of their competitors, it’s probably because Frndly TV’s guide is designed to look as sparse as the EPGs on cable or satellite — bare bones, easy to use.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a plus for Frndly TV — it’ll make the transition away from cable or satellite to a streaming service a lot easier for viewers who just don’t “get” this newfangled world of streaming television options. Frndly TV is a good, low-cost option for easing customers into the world of streaming television, without overwhelming them with user interfaces, features and channels that they’re probably not going to use anyway.

Older customers who watch a lot of classic shows on Me TV or military history on the History Channel probably don’t need a cloud-based DVR — they’re perfectly content with watching shows as they come on television (for those who do want a bit more convenience, all of Frndly TV’s packages come with access to on-demand programming, but this varies by channel). Classic TV buffs also probably don’t need high-definition video streams, which makes the $8 a month Classic plan an attractive option for those subscribers.

…if you don’t watch a lot of sports or opinion-based cable news.

It goes without saying that a service like Frndly TV is only able to keep costs low because it does without some of cable’s most-sought (and most-expensive) programming: Live sports and cable news.

But in the era of streaming television, it’s incredibly easy to find live sports and news across a wide variety of services, and Frndly TV might be able to supplement other services at a collective price that still undercuts even the most basic cable or satellite package.

For instance, fans who want to watch football games can subscribe to Paramount Plus ($6 a month), ESPN Plus ($10 a month) and Peacock ($5 a month) and watch live games from Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening and Monday night. (Thursday night games stream for free on Amazon’s streaming subsidiary, Twitch). Together, the cost is $21 a month; add Frndly TV’s Classic tier at $7 a month, and the total cost is $28 a month. Those costs can go down even more with an annual subscription to any or all of those services (Frndly TV offers an annual payment option that shaves 15 percent off the total monthly price of each plan). This, of course, assumes a viewer can’t pull in their local CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate with an antenna. Fans of other sports will have to seek out their own streaming TV bundle to decide which streaming services they need to watch live events.

News buffs have it easier than sports fans: There’s no shortage of free streaming news channels, it’s just a matter of flipping between apps. Tubi, for instance, offers access to ABC News Live, NBC News Now, LiveNow from Fox, Newsy and Bloomberg — all for free. Xumo, a free app owned by Comcast, offers all of those channels plus CBS News. The free version of Comcast’s other service, Peacock, offers news programming from some local NBC stations, as well as a live feed of its British satellite news channel Sky News.

Frndly TV supplements those services by offering around 40 live cable and digital networks at a low price, which means sports fans and news junkies shouldn’t feel they have to go without just because they’re signing up for a low-cost streaming cable replacement.

Purchases made through links may result in a commission for the author.

Purchases made through links may result in a commission for the author.

Frndly TV's user interface is simple, yet intuitive.
Frndly TV’s user interface is simple, yet intuitive. (Image via Frndly TV app, Graphic by The Desk)

Skip It…

…if you want a wide variety of cable channels from a streaming service.

Frndly TV is very good at what it does: Offering general entertainment and knowledge channels with a handful of features that customers want at a price that significantly undercuts traditional cable and satellite packages.

But not everyone is going to be satisfied with the channels Frndly TV carries, particularly those who want live sports, cable news and a wide variety of entertainment programming within a single app.

The thing is, Frndly TV is probably never going to stray outside its lane — offering sports-free, news-free programming packages works well for the service. Which means customers who do want that programming will have to find it somewhere else.

The good news is, there’s no shortage of streaming cable replacement that offer sports, entertainment, knowledge and news channels. But it comes at a cost.

For instance, Google-owned YouTube TV, carries entertainment, news and sports channels from Paramount Global (CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, BET), the Walt Disney Company (ABC, ESPN, the Disney Channel, FX), Comcast’s NBC Universal (NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA, E!), Fox Corporation (Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Weather, Fox Sports 1) and AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, BBC America, Sundance) as well as the NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV at a cost of $65 a month plus taxes.

Things only go up from there: Hulu with Live TV carries many of the same channels, but it costs $70 a month — a price that will go up to $75 a month by the end of the year. Fubo TV, which caters to sports fans, and DirecTV Stream cost about the same, if not more, depending on the channels a person adds to their package.

Programmers like Paramount, Disney and Comcast charge a lot for these channels, and there’s very little wiggle room to offer them beyond a “bundle” — if a company wants to carry ESPN, Disney forces them to also carry ABC, the Disney Channel and a bunch of digital-only cable channels that few people watch. Programmers are starting to “break the bundle” by moving some content to their own streaming services (for Disney, that’s Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu), but the economics of cable television still hold true for live networks — at least for now.

All of that is to say, don’t expect to see those channels come to Frndly TV anytime soon. The service has managed to keep subscription costs low by deliberately not carrying these channels. It is a business formula that works for them, even if it doesn’t necessarily work for you.

…if you want to watch cable’s highest-rated scripted shows.

Outside of live sports and cable news, scripted dramas are having a moment on cable and satellite, with “Yellowstone” on Paramount Network and “The Walking Dead” on AMC Networks ranked among the most-watched programming on cable and satellite over the last few years.

Unfortunately, neither of these programs are available on Frndly TV.

In order to keep costs down, Frndly TV generally avoid making programming deals with companies that bundle top-tier general entertainment channels with cable news and sports networks. Paramount Global, which operates Paramount Network, also owns CBS and the CBS Sports Network — and rarely does it offer Paramount Network without forcing a cable, satellite or streaming company to include its other channels. (Philo is a notable exception, as it carried some of Paramount Global’s cable channels before CBS was brought into the mix.) The same is true for AMC Networks, which bundles its flagship AMC channel with a handful of others, including BBC America and BBC World News.

Bundling these channels together makes streaming cable replacements more-expensive — something that services like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and DirecTV Stream have had to bear over the last few years, but precisely the kind of thing that Frndly TV works hard to avoid.

For that reason, Frndly TV probably won’t carry Paramount Network and AMC unless the programmers who own those channels allow them to do so on an a-la-carte basis. Since bundling channels is part of a cable programmer’s overall business model, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon — which means fans of “Yellowstone” and “The Walking Dead” should probably look to another service like Philo ($25 a month), Sling TV ($35 a month) or Vidgo ($60 a month) if they can’t live without those shows.

…if you want access to a large amount of diverse programming.

Let’s say you live in a town with two grocery stores: One that sells only white bread at a low price, and one that sells a wide variety of bread at a slightly higher cost.

If you are someone who likes white bread, you’re probably going to shop at the store that has white bread for sale. After all, they’re giving you what you want, at a cost that is reasonable to you.

On the other hand, maybe you like to mix things up a bit — sometimes you like white bread, but some days you want toast made from whole wheat bread. Maybe you prefer cinnamon raisin bread with breakfast, and multi-grain bread for sandwiches. Perhaps your kids like a different kind of bread altogether. If that’s the case, you’re probably going to shop at the store that has more variety.

Frndly TV is the streaming equivalent of the white bread grocery store. The 40-plus networks available on Frndly TV mostly carry programming that obviously caters to the type of people who are more likely to identify with the customers who shop exclusively at the white bread store. There is nothing wrong with that — there’s clearly a market for white bread, and the store that sells white bread at a low cost is going to be successful in its own right.

But there’s probably a bigger market for people who want more-diverse types of bread, and the same is probably true for people who want a wide variety of programming. The good news is, there’s sports-free, low-cost options for those customers, too.

Philo, for instance, carries over 80 cable and digital networks at a cost of $25 a month. The service offers a number of diverse channels that aren’t found on Frndly TV, including BET, VH1, Revry TV, Logo, MTV, Vice TV, AMC, BBC America, Nickelodeon and a bunch of other channels for $25 a month. Philo comes with the ability to create 10 user profiles who each get access to a one-year cloud DVR, as well as the ability to watch across three different devices at once.

Sling TV costs slightly more at $35 a month but unlocks access to Fox and Paramount channels in its Sling Blue package (including Fox News, MSNBC and some local Fox and NBC stations), and Disney channels in its Sling Orange package (which includes ESPN as well as some local ABC stations). Comedy Central, TBS, TNT, FX and the Cartoon Network are also included in Sling’s basic programming package; there’s a number of add-on packages that unlock even more channels like the NFL Network, BBC World News and Paramount Network for a few dollars more a month.

Bottom Line

If you find yourself watching reality-based, history-themed and classic television programming, or you want a service that offers a nice dose of family-friendly fare at a price that won’t break the bank, then Frndly TV is worth a look.

The same goes for people who want to help their parents, grandparents or other relatives move away from cable and satellite to a streaming service that still has a lot of the same look and feel as a traditional set-top box, without any complicated features or extras.

But there are better options for people who want a deeper mix of general entertainment, lifestyle and knowledge programming: Philo offers more diversity in its channel lineup and content library, and Sling TV offers a decent mixture of entertainment, news and sports channels. Those two services alone also offer cable’s two top scripted dramas — Yellowstone and the Walking Dead — which can’t be found on Frndly TV.  While other options might cost more than Frndly TV, they also offer more, and — as with anything — you get what you pay for.

If you’re still on the fence, you can try Frndly TV for yourself, without any obligation. The service offers a free, seven-day trial on any of its three packages, which means you can watch every channel and try out all the features before you have to pay a single cent.

Purchases made through links may result in a commission for the author.

Purchases made through links may result in a commission for the author.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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