Mediacom offers a decent value in TV, but it’s far from perfect. First, you must bundle it with internet—standalone TV isn’t available. A thin sports selection and lots of fees also hurt. That said, Mediacom internet isn’t bad, so if you’re going with that, it probably makes sense to go with Mediacom TV, too.
Philo is a great value if you love feel-good movies, reality TV, and shows about home and family, but you’ll miss out on sports, news, and local channels. We put it to the test on browsers, phones, and streaming sticks, and we think it’s a fair contender for the softer side of live TV.
Mediacom offers reasonable value to TV customers. It’s not the most affordable TV provider and doesn’t offer the highest channel count or fastest internet speeds, but it’s also not outrageously expensive. It’s just…reasonable.
Depending on your chosen package, you get 50+, 125+, or 170+ channels, along with internet speeds up to 1 Gbps. The channel selection is good, with popular networks including ESPN, HGTV, and Telemundo available. You’ll need to bump up to the second tier to get FS1 plus local channels, but that's all you get for sports. You'll need the third tier for ESPN and most regional sports networks. Channel selection varies quite a bit based on where you live.
It’s worth noting that Mediacom does not offer a standalone TV service. It’s available only as part of a bundle with internet service. We expect most people will want to bundle, so this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s good to know.
Philo, a live TV streaming service cleverly named after the inventor of the television, is one of the cheapest live TV options we tested. It’s a great value for limited live TV and an endless array of movies, entertainment, and lifestyle shows. It offers HGTV plus all the Hallmark and Lifetime channels before add-on pricing, unlike some competing live TV services. There are other add-ons, but even if you pay for them all, you’ll still pay less than most of the other live TV services we reviewed.
It’s a nice price, but there’s a reason Philo can get away with charging less than half the other guys: there are no sports, no local channels, and very limited news options. That means missing out on more than just your local news broadcasts and home games. You’re also locked out of recently aired entertainment from PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. A digital antenna is an easy workaround, but you’ll need a separate DVR if you want to save the content to watch later. You could sign up for on-demand streaming apps to make up the difference, but prices add up quickly.
Remember TiVo? Well, it lives on with Mediacom as the provider’s DVR of choice. Mediacom subscribers get a TiVo DVR box that can record up to 150 hours of HD content (or 1,000 hours of standard definition), which should be plenty for most users.
The Xtream TiVo system also has powerful search and voice control capabilities, making it easy to find what you want to watch. Finally, the Mediacom TV Everywhere service gives you access to your favorite shows and DVR recordings no matter where you are. You can use your Mediacom login information to access a network’s content in the network’s app or via its website (like ABC or A&E, for example), or you can use the Mediacom mobile app.
If you love home renovation shows, feel-good movies, and reality TV, Philo has a channel lineup you’ll love. You get more than 60 channels, including Lifetime, Hallmark, A&E, and the up-and-coming INSP with the base package price. We also happened upon shows from TV’s rich past, including I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Matlock, Doctor Who, and even Touched by an Angel. There’s a strong selection of shows about the Black experience, too, including Rasheeda Jones’s Boss Moves and much more.
In addition to its own channels and on-demand offerings, Philo makes it easy to access free programming from services including Crackle, Cheddar News, Gusto TV, and RetroCrush, the new station featuring classic anime hits.
There are more than 60,000 shows in the on-demand library, but it’s hard to recommend Philo for most cord cutters. The service stays super cheap by skipping local channels, sports, national news, and many of the most popular national networks. (1) That means no games, no Modern Family, no Late Night Tonight, and no 60 Minutes. You don’t get Fox News, MSNBC, HBO, or CNN either, and we didn’t happen upon any foreign-language programming in our tests.
It’s not great, but there is a silver lining. Philo comes with a free trial and is easy to cancel online, so you can sign up for just a month or two whenever you’re in the mood for all the movies and programming it offers.
Installation of your new Mediacom service will cost at least $35, and there’s no option to self-install. This fee can sometimes be waived with certain promotions, and we highly recommend hunting one down or discussing it with your sales rep. There’s also a $10 activation fee that’ll show up on your first bill.
The first TiVo DVR is included in your monthly price, but you'll have to pay around $15 to use it. Additional boxes cost about $9 per month. Finally, since you have to bundle with internet, you’ll be on the hook for a $12 modem fee each month. There’s also a standard $10 monthly fee for an eero Wi-Fi router system, but you might be able to get it free with certain promotions.
Philo offers many of the features you’d expect from a modern live TV streaming service. In our tests, it was easy to create profiles for different watchers, and the DVR libraries and favorites were kept separate. You can add up to 10 profiles and assign each a separate mobile phone number, so different users can sign in using their personal phones. However, there were no parental controls to be found.
The DVR and on-demand experiences were pretty par for the course in our tests, and Philo recently upgraded its cloud DVR to save recordings for up to a year. We like that you get three extra months to watch your recordings, compared to competitors Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, which give you only nine months. Unlimited recordings is also pretty sweet, and we liked Philo’s 72-hour Rewind feature. You can use it to watch almost anything that’s aired in the last 72 hours, even if you forgot to add it to your library before it aired.
You can watch Philo on up to three screens at a time, without a lot of verification or hassle, and we didn’t run into any issues when we tried multiple devices and browsers from different locations. Unfortunately, there is no way to watch in 4K—the service maxes out at 1080p resolution no matter how you’re watching.
In a truly bizarre move, Mediacom offers only local networks on the first tier, only local networks plus FS1 on the second tier, and no ESPN or TUDN until you get to the top-tier Variety package. This means sports fans on a budget might have to look elsewhere. Even then, the selection is pretty slim. Popular channels like NFL Network, MLB TV, and the Golf Channel are nowhere to be found, but you can pay about $8 per month for the Sports & Info PAK, which includes the Tennis Channel, MSG Network, and a variety of news channels.
Mediacom also offers all the usual premium channels, including HBO Max, SHOWTIME, Cinemax, and STARZ. Prices are on par with other providers. Better yet, some of the add-on costs were reduced by a few bucks at the end of 2022!
We tested the Philo interface on iOS and Android mobile phones, a few different web browsers, and an Apple TV. The interface was similar across devices, and the setup was one of the simplest among all the live TV streaming services we tested. After we entered payment info, we got right into the guide. The original browser saved our login info. Signing in later on different browsers and apps required two-step verification using a mobile phone number or email address, but we never had to enter (or remember) a password.
When you get to the Home screen on Philo, you’ll find a roundup of trending live and recommended shows, plus top movies and other categories. You can see whether a show is available on demand by clicking through to the episode description or by hovering your mouse over a particular episode, but there’s no way to tell at the series level. However, you can favorite shows at either the episode or series level, and saving a series means all future episodes will be recorded in your Saved library. You can also favorite channels, and that makes them show up first in the channel guide. It’s fairly simple to unfavorite, and the changes appear across devices instantly.
The viewing experience is about what you’d expect from a live TV provider, but with some oddities. Watching live, the only way to skip commercials is to record the episode in progress, wait several minutes, and skip ahead whenever the commercials come on. You can also fast forward through most commercials on DVR content, and some channels let you skip ads with one click on Roku streaming devices. The weird part was seeing political ads for candidates and issues in faraway states. We didn’t love the repetitive commercials that have become common on streaming services in the last few years, either.
We ran into some buffering issues with Philo on the Apple TV we tested, particularly with the channel guide. It happened on different devices in multiple locations, so we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a bandwidth issue. The slow loading wasn’t a dealbreaker, but we can see how channel surfers would be annoyed.
To get the most out of Philo, we recommend spending some time in the beginning to find and add your favorite shows. Within a few days, your Saved library will fill up with dozens of episodes to choose from.