Revry’s Damian Pelliccione Is Proud to Be the ‘Byron Allen of LGBTQ Media’: ‘Standing for My Community’

For Revry cofounder and CEO Damian Pelliccione (they/them), Pride is year-round. Speaking to TheWrap from Cannes Lions 2024 for our Office With a View interview series, the executive behind the first global LGBTQ+ streaming service — and “the only dedicated entertainment media network for brands to connect with queer audiences with its FAST service and on-demand LGBTQ-first movies, series, news and music” — said one of the biggest hurdles facing the company is aligning partners to understand that, too.

“Brands are so afraid to dive into our community outside of editorial moments, outside of Pride season,” Pelliccione said. “I’m still queer 365 days of the year. We still spend $3.4 trillion in disposable income in the United States. We’re the third-largest consumer purchasing group in America. That is not a small market.”

Going into the June 17–21 festival of creativity on the Croisette, Pelliccione exclusively previewed Revry’s new study with Nielsen on behavior, preferences and attitudes of LGBTQ+ viewers toward advertising and connected television. They presented “Loyalty Unlocked: Tapping LGBTQ+ Audiences Through Connected TV” at the fest on Friday.

Among the study’s key findings are that Revry viewers prefer content that reflects their identities and experiences by a 90% margin, while “80% are likely to continue using a service that invests” in LGBTQ+ content. On the advertising front, “nearly 66% of viewers are more likely to purchase from a brand that advertises in LGBTQ+ programming and 20% are more inclined to buy from a brand that sends targeted messages based on gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Additionally, across all brand categories, over 60% of viewers agree “it’s important for brands to show support for LGBTQ+ events and causes and the community as a whole.”

Pelliccione added that another major takeaway from the study was the enthusiasm with which LGBTQ+ audiences are embracing FAST and AVOD viewing options.

“They’re adopting into this new wave of television and technology way faster than any other consumer groups,” Pelliccione said. “You’ll see there is a major shift, especially within our own culture, not only to see ourselves reflected throughout the content that the brands are aligning with. And I want to be very clear, brands don’t need to have LGBTQ imagery in their creative, but they definitely need to align with platforms that are authentically owned for and by our community. Revry is one of the few.”

It’s with that intel that the executive maintained that streamers like Hulu, Netflix, Peacock and Pluto “cannot and will not be able to tap culture like we can, because we are authentically owned and operated by people from the community for and by.”

Elsewhere in their interview, Pelliccione highlighted Revry’s original programming (including the GLAAD Award-winning “Drag Latina” and its viewership record-breaking “Pride Ball 2023”) as well as the challenges ahead as Revry and other minority owned-and-operated streaming platforms fight to expand.

I know that you’ve hit some milestones — the last numbers I saw for Revry was 5 million unique monthly visitors, is that right?
That was actually the end of 2023. I am proud to say that Revry is pacing now, by the end of Pride season, towards 6.5–7 million monthly active viewers. We say viewers because we don’t necessarily own the user and all the environments, but we collect a lot of data around it. And what’s really unique is we launched last year quietly our ad network PrismRiot, which was kind of the missing component to any minority publisher, network, streaming service to be able to tap scale and start to really get those bigger opportunities from major Fortune 500 brands — like, for instance, McDonald’s, who made a two-year multimillion dollar commitment to Revry. And we’re the first LGBTQ company for them to do that with. We knew that we needed to have that scale of that inventory to be able to service that brand.

I think one of the things that we are seeing, not to go too dorky down the ad tech route, is that a lot of these big assets — and I will call one out right now in this interview — specifically The Trade Desk, and even folks like Magnite who created policies to block intermediaries or resellers like Revry and other folks that are in this space, not just LGBTQ, but Hispanic, Black, so many different minority-focused publishers who can’t get scale without having an ad network. Meaning we have to be able to sell not just our inventory, but other folks’ inventory. But these policies feel and act very discriminatory towards certified minority-owned businesses, specifically The Trade Desk. And they have blocked us from being able to scale our business because they have monopolies with folks like Procter & Gamble, for instance, that block the inventory from us being seen via their exchanges. And we’re going to fight that fight. We’re going to fight that fight all the way up to the top.

This is my first time going on public record to talk about this major pain point from folks trying to create monopolies and policies that don’t give opportunity to folks that are Black-, Hispanic-, AAPI-, LGBTQ-, disabled-, Indigenous-owned and operated. Because a minority company cannot have scale, it’s mathematically impossible, unless we have intermediaries or create ad networks, like we did with Revry. And I will say that, look, they’re a publicly traded business, right? And if I have to be the Byron Allen of LGBTQ media, I will be, because I am standing for what’s right. I’m standing for change. I am standing for my community and for representation, because we employ LGBTQ people. We have struggled to build this business in the gatekeeping of not just Hollywood but also the ad tech world, and we will be the most vocal platform to stand up to these folks and say: No, this is not fair. We need to create long-lasting, meaningful change that moves the needle for minority folks who want to have a seat at the table.

When it comes to systemic “gatekeeping” in the ad tech space, what is the first step to combat that?
One of the biggest ways is brands are so afraid to dive into our community outside of editorial moments, outside of Pride season — or maybe October, LGBTQ history month. It’s the same thing on why they over index and spend during Black History Month in February, Hispanic Heritage Month in September or October. I’m still queer 365 days of the year. We still spend $3.4 trillion in disposable income in the United States. We’re the third-largest consumer purchasing group in America. That is not a small market, right? Even though the census says, according to last year, we’re currently 7.2, 7.4% of the American population that self-identify. We know there’s a whole lot more queer folks out there who may or may not self-identify in a census. And especially when we look at millennial and Gen Z; millennial being 10–15% LGBTQ, Gen Z being 23–30% LGBTQ. They definitely want to align with cultural movements, and cultural movements can be streamers, businesses, nonprofits and brands that show respect and show creation together with culture.

You don’t own your viewers working in the FAST and AVOD space the same way you would if you were a subscription streaming service. What are the challenges and positives of that?
It becomes tricky because we are at the mercy of the biggest platforms that we distribute to. I think the challenge has always been data and the data matching up. What one platform will tell you like a Roku or Samsung or Vizio, the other one won’t or it’ll be in different kind of languages. And we have an amazing head of data, Chad O’Brien, who basically translates languages between that data to help us make sense for how are we programming our channels better? How are we figuring out when our primetime or our best day to release an original project is?

One of the biggest challenges that we’re going to face as an industry, it’s any operator in FAST, specifically — there is going to have to eventually be a reckoning. There’s going to have to be some standardization. I think a lot of the big technology partners are afraid to standardize. It’s kind of like, what’s old is new. Television is reinventing itself, linear television is reinventing itself, but through different hardware devices. And I think that has always been the challenge.

Where I think we’ve gotten really smart, is not just with our ad network, not just with the performance data that we get on our programming, not just the data and the dashboards that we log into every day to analyze so we can better license and better curate and better program our content, but it’s also the marketing and the response, the call and response that we get from pitching these platforms that feature us during Pride month, which you’re probably seeing when you open up your Samsung TV or your Vizio at some point. We’re going to be featured on that homepage because we’re part of that editorial moment for that connected device. This is when we see, obviously, the biggest influx of new viewership, it’s when we see the biggest influx of new advertisers. But we have to take that data and try to figure out how do we maintain this all year round? And I think we’ve gotten really smart through different uses of ad technology to be able to track devices, to track users, to understand watch times.

And it all comes down to great content. We have to have, I always say, comfort food from big studios. We license from Sony and Warner Bros. and BBC and Lionsgate. So we have queer classics — “But I’m a Cheerleader,” “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” which is a camp classic for our community and believe it or not, we’re the only streaming service on the planet where you can watch it right now. And even “Who’s That Girl,” a Madonna, campy ’80s film, which we’re the only one carrying on AVOD and FAST. We’ve seen explosive numbers around some of these camp classics. We blend that with our original programming. We just premiered “Can’t Cancel Pride,” our coproduction with iHeartMedia underwritten by Procter & Gamble that has everyone from Billy Porter to Victoria Monét to Raye and Ben Platt. It’s really an exciting time to be watching Revry.

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