The cheapest live TV streamer heads to Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
Philo, which nixes news and sports for a cut-rate $16 a month, is also unlocking the streaming apps for cable channels like AMC, Nickelodeon and Discovery.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
ExpertiseStreaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation onlineCredentials
Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Philo, a fledgling skinny-bundle TV streaming service, is taking two steps closer to its big-league competitors.
The live-TV streaming company will work on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices this summer, CEO Andrew McCollum said last week. An Android mobile app is next on the roadmap.
When Philo launched in November, the TV streaming service worked on Roku, on Apple mobile devices and by casting from a Chrome browser on your computer through
or any other TV-connected Google Cast. The device support was relatively limited compared with competitors. Adding Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV will be a significant expansion for Philo.
In addition, you'll be able to do more with your Philo account. The company is unlocking the streaming apps for the TV networks included in a customer's subscription. That means if you pay for Philo's $16-a-month bundle of cable channels, you'll be able to access the paywalled apps for channels like AMC, Nickelodeon, Discovery Channel and History. (Insiders call this TV Everywhere authentication.)
All of Philo's networks are participating except for the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, which is coming soon.
Philo is the latest in a parade of virtual TV services that have emerged in the last three years and also is the most niche. Most of its competitors are backed by tech Goliaths like AT&T's DirecTV Now, Google's YouTube TV, Dish's Sling TV or Sony's PlayStation Vue, as a way for those companies to establish their turf as television viewers migrate from traditional providers like cable to digital ones.
But -- kind of like a minor-league Hulu, which is owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and Time Warner -- Philo is backed by the smaller media companies that run the cable TV networks it carries, like AMC and Discovery.
That means it offers a seriously skinny bundle, but it also means Philo has the cheapest live-TV streaming package out there.
Philo's sweet-spot customer is someone who's a superfan of one of its cable networks, so opening up TV Everywhere authentication could be a lure for viewers who would already be attracted to that network's streaming app for any extras packed in. And widening device support helps expand its potential subscriber base to people who use Apple TV or
Philo's bundle lacks big-time sports, sports channels, round-the-clock news, big broadcast networks, local channels or the biggest cable networks (which almost all have sports). But those are also the most expensive channels out there. Without them, Philo is cheapest among the newborn ranks of virtual live-TV services. Philo undercuts Sling TV's $20 starting rate and is half the price (or less) compared with DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV.
For these bigger competitors, though, wide device support is par for the course.
TV Everywhere authentication has been spotty with these services in the past, but rivals like PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now unlock all the channel apps that Philo does now. Some of Philo's other, bigger competitors, however, don't unlock the apps for all their channels. Sling has a patchwork of TV Everywhere authentications.
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