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Philo: A powerful — and cheap — online alternative to traditional cable

(Photo: Philo/Handout)

[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-check-1″ cons_icon=”icon icon-cancle” show_title=”true” title=”Philo TV” show_button=”true” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” link_text=”Try Philo for free” link=”” ][i2pros]$20 a month for 55+ channels
Offers Comedy Central, AMC, Nickeloden
Unlimited 30-day cloud DVR
10 profiles, 3 simultaneous streams
All channels in high definition
TV Everywhere support[/i2pros][i2cons]No sports channels
Limited news channels
No ESPN, Disney, FX, Fox Sports
Chromecast not supported
Not available on Playstation or XBox[/i2cons][/i2pc]

Despite recent moves in Congress aimed at making cable and satellite prices more-transparent by eliminating so-called “hidden fees,” there’s little reason to believe the price of traditional cable or satellite television will decrease anytime soon.

That’s because some of the most-expensive channels are ones diehard cable and satellite customers seemingly can’t live without — specifically, sports. In recent years, programmers like Disney, Fox and Comcast have requested more money from distributors like Spectrum, AT&T and Dish in exchange for rights to distribute channels like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network to their customers. The end result? Fees that seem to get higher each year.

Online-only services like Sling, YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV were seen as the solution to ever-rising cable and satellite bills: Slimmer packages delivered through the Internet straight to a customer’s TV set. They promised the same movies, sports and — in some cases — local TV channels offered on cable and satellite, but at a much-cheaper rate.

It didn’t take long for the same issues that plagued cable and satellite to impact streaming services: YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now and others have raised prices to offset programming costs, with some fees now coming close or matching those of cable and satellite companies.

Not everyone wants sports or news, though, and for those people, there’s a little-known service called Philo that’s worth a look.

For just $20 a month, Philo offers up more than 50 traditional pay TV channels as well as some digital-only channels from some of the country’s top programmers. Philo’s distribution deals with AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Discovery Networks and ViacomCBS means subscribers get top channels like Comedy Central, AMC, IFC, MTV, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Paramount Network and Nickelodeon along with niche channels like BBC America, Sundance TV, Game Show Network, Science Channel, We TV, BET, CMT, Viceland and VH1.

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Philo comes with an unlimited cloud DVR that stores TV shows and movies for a 30-day period after a show or movie’s initial broadcast. It also has an extensive on-demand catalog of TV shows and movies. And the service works with TV Everywhere on most channels, unlocking access to standalone smartphone and smart TV apps offered by Comedy Central, MTV, A&E, Discovery Channel and others.

What you won’t get on Philo: Sports. The service manages to keep its cost at $20 a month by steering away from channels like ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports 1 and others, many of which cost the most for cable and satellite companies to carry. Philo also doesn’t have CNN, Fox News or MSNBC, though it does have BBC World Service for international news and Cheddar for business headlines.

Philo comes with 10 profiles — so family, friends and roommates can all have their own DVR recordings — and is available on Apple TV, Roku and Android TV streaming boxes as well as on Android and iOS (Apple) phones and tablets. It doesn’t work via Chromecast or on game consoles, though the company says it’s working hard to bring its service to more devices.

Readers of The Desk can take advantage of a special offer: Click or tap here to sign up for a free 7-day trial of Philo, stream as much TV as you want, and if you decide to keep your account going, you’ll get your first month for $15 — 25 percent off the normal monthly rate.

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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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