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Cord-cutters who like TV shows, but want to skip sports can try $16 streaming service Philo

Tuesday - 14/11/2017 14:32
A new livestreaming TV service called Philo launches today, and it's sure to get the attention of people sick of paying high cable bills for channels they don't watch. Time

The Walking Dead and Property Brothers have another streaming video home.

A&E, AMC, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, HGTV, OWN and another 30 channels are part of a new subscription streaming service called Philo, launching today for $16 a month.

A few other channels on board: AXS, Animal Planet, BBC America, Cheddar, Food Network, History Channel, IFC, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Sundance, Velocity and Viceland. For the complete list go to

Not in the lineup: ESPN and any of its other channels or competing offerings from Fox Sports and regional sports networks.

In that way, Philo differs from some of the biggest names among the more than 200 TV services you can currently subscribe to, and have delivered by broadband, in the U.S., according to Parks Associates. Most of the live TV services such as DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu, Sony's PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV have sports within the channels they offer. But not all consumers want sports or live TV news says, says Philo CEO Andrew McCollum.

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Over the past two years, McCollum and his team at Philo, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., have taken what they have learned from operating a college-based next-generation TV system to develop a mass-market video service.

In feedback, students have said they wished they could take the broadband-delivered service with them when they graduate, McCollum says. 

On campuses at dozens universities including Harvard, Yale, the University of Alabama and the University of Washington, Philo supplanted standard cable TV packages with wireless TV viewable on mobile devices and computers.

"As a group they are less interested in live sports than older groups ... and less interested in live TV news," said McCollum, during a video chat and demonstration of the service recently. "We have seen all this in our data and we are trying to build a product and service that is really going to appeal to that group."

A screen shot of the Home page for new subscription streaming TV service Philo. (Photo: Philo)

Another interest is cost. Many consumers transitioning from college into the workplace don't want an expensive pay TV package. Having a channel like ESPN and its sister channels can add $10 to $15 to a monthly programming package, McCollum says.

"That’s the first thing that led us to this entertainment-focused package. Looking out in the marketplace, it doesn’t really exist," he said. "If you care about entertainment content and it’s not just sports there’s no way you can get that content without paying the huge cost of sports."

Also interested in an entertainment-focused service are the content providers themselves.  Five major programmers — A+E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps and Viacom — invested $25 million in Philo and their channels make up the channels offered.

The last two to three years has seen a rise in broadband-delivered TV services some have called "skinny bundles," because subscribers have more choice about what channels to pay for. But that has left some channels out in the cold.

Back in May, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said several media companies had been developing an "entry-level" entertainment programming pay-TV package to make sure channels such as Viacom's channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon are offered to cord cutters and other Net TV subscribers.

Viacom's channels have not been available on YouTube TV and Hulu's live TV service, and Sony's PlayStation Vue, which launched two years ago, dropped the channels, too.

Most current broadband-delivered TV offerings are “more or less a copy of what is out in the traditional marketplace, with a big bundle with sports and broadcast," said Henry Ahn, who is president for content distribution and marketing for Scripps Networks Interactive. "We really do think there may be a marketplace for a very well-defined set of entertainment, great brands at a reasonably-priced bundle."

Scripps and the other programmers such as Discovery Communications, which acquired Scripps in July 2017, felt confident in McCollum, who attended Harvard with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and was among the founding team at the social network, Ahn said. "He really does care about the consumer experience and he was going to launch something that was fully baked ... whether it was search or discovery or recommendations," he said. "We think it's one of the better (user interfaces) in the marketplace."

Philo's look is approachable and understandable. "We to get you to what you want to watch as soon as possible," McCollum said. It's easy to sign up for a free seven-day trial, just type your phone number in on Philo's site.


Initially, you can watch on computers using a web browser, on iOS mobile and portable devices and Roku TV streaming products, with other products and Android mobile support coming soon.

An unlimited cloud DVR saves programs for 30 days and you can watch video on up to three devices simultaneously. For $4 monthly, you can add an additional nine channels: American Heroes, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family and Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live and Nicktoons.

A screen shot from new subscription streaming TV service Philo, showing the page devoted to 'Property Brothers' show. (Photo: Philo)

By the way, Philo is not curbing its ambition. Its Philo Edu system will remain in operation. And as you would expect from someone who spent time at Facebook, McCollum plans to add several social features to Philo once the service has a sizable audience.

"It totally changes the way you feel about the experience to be watching these shows with your friends rather than by yourself," he said. "It really fundamentally changes the way you feel about TV." 

With spending on subscription video on demand expected to reach $9.6 billion this year, according to consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and approach $11 billion in 2018, there's a growing audience for Net-delivered video. "Certainly, there’s other people who are not millennials who are interested in an entertainment package as well," McCollum said.

 Key: Philo

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