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.
Verizon Fios TV offers an excellent value TV service. The customizable Your Fios plan is particularly attractive, but all tiers offer a lot of TV for the money. Add in outstanding internet, and it’s hard to go wrong with Verizon.
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.
Verizon isn't the cheapest option for traditional TV—you can get TV service for less elsewhere. It’s also not the best in terms of channels per dollar—although it holds its own. However, the ability to personalize the Your Fios plan means you can get more of the channels you actually want without having to pony up for a more expensive plan. It's a fantastic feature, and relatively uncommon in the cable TV space.
Of course, if you do want all the channels, you can get that, too: the top-tier Most Fios plan comes with well over 400, which is one of the highest channel counts in the business.
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.
Verizon Fios TV comes with all the features you’d expect from a fiber company. It offers a $12/month DVR with 50 hours of storage, as well as a built-in Netflix app for when you want to change things up. You can add more storage and multi-room capabilities for an additional monthly fee (or for free, if you qualify for certain promotions).
Whether you have the basic DVR or one of the advanced options, you'll benefit from top-of-the-line features. The remote offers voice control, so you can simply tell it what you want to watch. Finally, the mobile app enables on-the-go streaming of your favorite channels—and it is surprisingly well rated. (1, 2)
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.
The Verizon Fios TV installation fee is $99, and there’s no self-install option. However, online ordering and promotions often waive this fee, so you can save some money on your first TV bill. Apart from that, the other major setup costs are the router and the DVR. You'll need the $18-per-month router if you don't already have Verizon Fios internet, and the company recommends against using your own equipment. For the DVR, the monthly cost is $12 but you may need to pay more depending whether you need additional set-top boxes and multi-room DVR capabilities.
The overall installation process is a little more involved than some other providers. Since this is a fiber service, you need a special box called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) installed if you don’t already have one. That said, it is quick and painless for most.
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.
Verizon Fios TV offers a reasonable number of sports and premium options. Fios has access to all the major professional sports, including NFL Network, MLB Network, and the various ESPN channels. We think sports fans will be plenty satisfied with the options here.
You can get two of the major premium channels (HBO Max, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Cinemax, and EPIX) in any combination you like, from one channel to all five. The more you bundle, the less you’ll pay for each. Getting all five is a solid deal at around $40 per month—that’s less than $10 per channel.