The on-campus television streaming service Philo, which allowed students to watch live shows for free on campus, has had the number of channels it offers cut.
The service will still have 13 local channels and CoogTV, but popular channels like ESPN and CNN, along with all other cable channels, have been cut from the list due to low usage by students. HBO Go, which was on a free trial basis and compounded with Philo, is also disappearing on top of the channel cutbacks.
About only 14 percent of students living on campus were used the free streaming service at least once a month, according to a survey done by Technology Services and Support. That 14 percent is less than 1000 of the more than 6000 students who had access to the server.
“When we weighed the cost of the television service, about half a million, with usage, it did not make sense to continue providing a premium service that very few residential students were using,” said Don Yackley, executive director for Student Housing and Residential life. “However, it is important to continue offering television services for local news, weather and UH channels.”
The main reason for the decrease in viewership is that most students now have some type of streaming service to watch shows and rarely watch live television anymore.
According to a survey done by University Information Technology, 100 percent of participants had some sort of paid subscription streaming service outside Philo.
“When I was in school there only was regular TV, so we all watched TV,” said Technology Services and Support Assistant Vice President David Johnson. “Today that’s changed dramatically. Students are watching streaming services. They’re watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and they’re bringing their own content with them.”
With the major cutback of the streaming services, UH residents will get something in return, Yackley said. The money that was used to pay for Philo will now go toward upgrading Wi-Fi.
“If you’re going to watch Netflix you have to have good Wi-Fi,” Johnson said. “We’ve put a huge effort in bringing the residence halls up to speed.”
The residence halls are almost complete in receiving the Wi-Fi upgrade, Johnson said.
Pre-business sophomore Jack Morgan lived on campus his freshman year and currently lives on campus, and he used the service often, usually to watch sports.
“I primarily used it every week to watch NFL or college football on Saturdays or Sundays and sometimes Thursdays,” Morgan said. “During the NBA season at least once a week as well.”
He would not always watch alone, however, as he also used the service as a way to get together with friends to watch UH play during away games.
“Sometimes my friends and I would have watch parties for Cougar games or other local sports teams such as the Spurs or Texans,” Morgan said.
Cutting back on Philo’s content was a decision made after a lot of deliberation, Johnson said. He hopes that the sacrifice will end up helping the entire student population through better Wi-Fi.
“(Yackley) had to make the decision of priority,” Johnson said. “Do we prioritize the Wi-Fi for all students in these residence halls, or do we prioritize the television needs of a handful of students across the residence halls, that is declining every year.”