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This is the best cheap live-TV streaming service for cord cutters

Priced at just $16 per month, Philo TV is the only Cheapskate-approved choice.

philo-program-guide

Philo serves up 45 live-streaming channels for $16 per month.

Philo

Everyone I know hates cable TV, simply because it's so expensive. We're all sick of rates that seem to climb by the month and sick of paying for channels we don't watch.

So what's the alternative? Cut the cord, of course, and ditch cable in favor of cheaper alternatives. Ah, but are they really cheaper? If you've looked at CNET's latest roundup of the best live-TV streaming services, you know that many of those services cost $45-$50 a month.

Read: Best TV antennas for cord-cutters, starting at just $10  

I don't know your situation, but that's close to what I'm paying Comcast for my basic-cable subscription -- a price that includes several gazillion channels and quite a lot of on-demand content. So where are the savings?

Right here. Philo is a live-TV streaming service priced at just $16 a month, making it one of the best values out there -- by a pretty substantial margin.

Before I go on, let me pause to mention AT&T WatchTV. It's a very similar service, and priced even less: just $15 a month, and possibly less if you're an AT&T Wireless subscriber. But it's not nearly as good, for reasons I'll get into in an upcoming comparison post.

Here's what the $16 Philo plan buys you: Three simultaneous streams of 45 popular channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Food Network, IFC, Nickelodeon, Science and The History Channel. Interestingly, there's a $20 option that adds 13 more channels, but I'm guessing most folks won't feel the need. AHC? Discovery Life? Revolt?

You can watch those streams live or on-demand, and Philo also offers unlimited recording -- basically a cloud DVR for any shows you want to save. Some services, like Sling TV, charge extra for that option.

The service is accessible on Android and iOS mobile devices, with apps also available for Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. There's a web interface as well for computer-based streaming.

Read more: Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV

Here's what you don't get from Philo: local channels and sports. I can deploy an antenna (and, if needed, a DVR) for the former, because I live in an area well served by over-the-air signals, and I watch sports very infrequently.

Indeed, the channel selection aligns pretty closely with what I like to watch: The History Channel for Forged in Fire, Food Network for Chopped, Comedy Central for Corporate and so on. I think the only channel I'll really miss is FX, home to the likes of Atlanta, Better Things and Legion. Thankfully, those and other shows eventually make their way to Hulu, which is also a steal at $6 a month. (Until June 10, you can get Spotify and Hulu bundled together for just $10 per month. You won't be able to upgrade the Hulu plan to add premium channels or the commercial-free option, but the former -- HBO, Showtime, Starz and the like -- are all available separately anyway.)

I've been test-driving Philo for the past few days (you can get a seven-day trial for free), and so far I like it -- a lot. The guide affords me the kind of channel-surfing I miss without having cable proper, and the price is just so damn reasonable. You get a generous selection of channels, three simultaneous streams and unlimited DVR, all without the nickel-and-diming you'd expect.

So, yeah, Philo is definitely Cheapskate-approved. Cord cutting can mean sacrificing channels you want and conveniences you enjoy, often without saving all that much money. Even if you're paying just $40 per month for cable, there's no question this saves you a big chunk of change.


CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!