A new over-the-top subscription streaming service is joining the increasing variety of options available to viewers who want to cut cable and satellite service, but still get the TV they enjoy. The new service is called Philo, offers a package of 37 channels including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, A&E, Food Network and HGTV, and be available for $16 per month.
You might notice that there are no sports networks mentioned in the list of channels that Philo (named after Philo Farnsworth, who invented television) will offer in its service. Not having to pay rights fees for sports allows it to offer a lower monthly price to potential subscribers. And that’s the hook.
Philo is reaching out to those who want an alternative to cable and satellite without having to pay the subscriber fees that consumers typically have to pay for sports networks like ESPN and FS1. You can see the appeal for those who have no use for live games, studio shows, and all the programming that sports channels have to offer.
However, sports media and fans may still want to pay attention to Philo and whether or not it’s successful. Why, if the service doesn’t offer any sports? Well, Philo could end up being a cautionary tale for sports networks and service providers who offer sports programming.
If a service without sports channels ultimately fails with consumers, that provides quite an argument for services like Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and ESPN’s upcoming over-the-top service (ESPN Plus) in the future. People want sports. Maybe they want a particular sport, like the NFL or NBA. And those will be the services that include it in their programming packages.
There are other factors which may ultimately affect Philo’s success. For instance, the service doesn’t offer any channels from the four major networks. (That likely won’t change with Disney, which is developing its own standalone service.) Nor are any news channels like CNN, Fox News or MSNBC.
Philo also currently has no product available for streaming devices such as Chromecast, Apple TV or Amazon Fire. However, it is available on Roku, iOS and desktop, which Philo is hoping will be enough to attract subscribers upon its launch. Recode’s Peter Kafka also mentions some future “social TV” functions in development, such as sync-up viewing, that sound intriguing.
However, if live sports is typically the obstacle that prevents consumers from cutting the cord — and we’re not just talking about ESPN or NFL Network, but the four major networks who prize sports coverage, especially on weekends — products like Philo might have difficulty in finding an audience. Many people may say they don’t want sports, especially when it comes to not paying for it, but are there enough of them to support a standalone service without them?