Optimum offers exceptional value. You get tons of channels, a solid DVR, and a good selection of sports and premium channels for a very reasonable price. Despite some additional fees, Optimum is an excellent choice.
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.
Optimum TV offers excellent value, whether you live in an area that gets only cable internet or one wired for fiber-to-the-home. Internet-basedTV packages are available for as little as $30 per month (for basic TV), while the higher-tier plans offer high channel counts for the price. There are as many as 420+ channels available—one of the highest channel counts of any provider.
All those channels aren’t just for show, either. The lineup includes all the most popular networks, including CBS, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, Univision, and History. Finally, the internet service is also a fantastic value, offering faster speeds for the money than many competitors.
There's a 2-year price lock on most plans, which is great! Prices go up in the third year of TV service, though, and the company doesn't say by how much. We've heard customers complain about price hikes in the range of $85–$115, though, and that's just for TV. Since you also need internet, your price could balloon by $200 per month by year three.
You may be able to save on your bill by calling in and threatening to switch to a competitor, so we recommend it!
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.
Optimum’s Cloud DVR system offers up to 150 hours of storage for your favorite shows and movies, and you can record up to 15 shows at the same time—perfect for large families or households with lots of roommates. The system comes with all the modern features we expect from a DVR: voice control, an Apple TV app, support for streaming services, and more.
You can also access your DVR and on-demand content from your iPhone, iPad, or Android device with the provider’s app. Our only gripe is that the DVR storage is costly—more than $20 per month for the full 150 hours, in addition to the fee for renting the box. You'll also be charged a DVR service fee for every set-top box you rent.
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.
Optimum gives you the first set-top box for free, but you'll be charged an additional $10 per month each if you want to upgrade to an Apple TV or lease additional boxes. The equipment itself is more-or-less on par with other providers and should serve most users just fine.
Installation is a little complicated to explain, although the actual appointment should be simple enough. There are two cost structures for installation: one for customers who order online, and one for those who don’t.
If you order online, standard professional installation is free, or you can pay around $60 for a premium installation service if you want the technician to help set up your devices and walk you through using the service. If you don’t order online, these standard installation costs about $100 and premium installation costs about $150. You can also get an Optimum self-installation kit, which is a nice option if your home is already wired for service.
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.
Optimum offers all the expected premium channels, with the exception of EPIX, and prices are about average. Some packages also include premium channels in the price: the Premier package, for example, includes HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ.
Optimum also offers a Sports Pack, which includes more than 20 popular channels for $15 per month. You get NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NBA TV, the Golf Channel, and more. The higher-tier packages also include a number of channels by default—sports aficionados should opt for at least the Select TV plan to get the best selection.
If Optimum's offerings aren't quite right, you're in luck! A lot of games and matches are now available via streaming or over the air. Find out how to watch the MLB, how to watch pro football, and how to watch the NHL.
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.