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Diverse media representation has made great strides in recent decades, but most LGBTQ people can attest to the fact that they’re still not regularly seeing themselves included in mainstream entertainment. And when it comes to streaming platforms, the LGBTQ category is usually limited to a small amount of content that leaves little to no room for a variety of storytelling. That fact was not lost on ally Alia J. Daniels either, a Michigan native who transplanted to Los Angeles to finish Loyola Law School and start a career in entertainment law. She said she and a group of friends noticed the sparseness in LGBTQ content on mainstream apps in 2015.
“In November of 2015, the fourth generation of Apple television had come out and I had purchased it and loved it — I’m a huge apple geek,” Daniels said with a laugh. “And I told Damian [Pelliccione] who is a tech guy, ‘You’ve got to get this, it’s great.’ And he said, ‘Let’s search lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and see if you see anything in the app store,’ because it was the first time that you could search the app store for Apple television and get free apps for it. At the time, there was nothing there.”
Two weeks later, Pelliccione got his own Apple TV and still couldn’t find any LGBTQ-specific streaming apps. Daniels said that at that point it was an obvious choice to take action, and from there the streaming network known as Revry was born.
“[Pelliccione said,] ‘This is such a missed opportunity, we need to do this, there’s nothing here,'” Daniels said. “And I always like to joke and say that this is like the easiest ‘yes’ of my life because it was such a no-brainer to see such a huge opportunity.”
Fast forward to today and the global service hosts a library of exclusively LGBTQ content in film, shows and music made by and for LGBTQ people. Its current board consists of co-founders Pelliccione, who is its chief executive officer; Daniels, who serves as its chief operating officer; LaShawn McGhee, chief product officer; and Christopher Rodriguez, the company’s chief business officer. Though Daniels does not identify as LGBTQ, as an ally she said she recognizes the value of hosting content specifically tailored to the interests of LGBTQ viewers.
“I’ve always been very supportive of the community and clearly very aware of what traditional queer media looks like, so I was very adamant that if we were going to do this, that we’d have to do this differently,” Daniels said. “It [couldn’t] just be the same white, gay, coming out stories that you see coming out every other time. It’s got to be everyone, and I mean everyone, not just the same folks over and over again telling the same stories. Because, you know, yes, you come out, but things happen after you come out and those stories need to be told as well.”
Although their original goal was to target U.S. viewers specifically, Daniels said that the team noticed early on that viewers were receiving content across the globe. That realization, Daniels said, spurred on Revry’s vision to include diverse perspectives outside of the country, too.
“So, we intentionally began to partner with different festivals around the world to start to pay attention to content and bring in content that was international, so that we could have the opportunity to tell stories to people within their own language and be in familiar locations, things that make people feel seen. That was very important to us. For instance, we’ve not been blocked in China yet, fingers crossed, knock on wood,” Daniels said with a laugh. “Because of that, we were very intentional about licensing content from China so we have about 50 hours of queer content in Mandarin which is the largest library of queer content outside of China. And we were very intentional about doing that because we were seeing a growing audience there.”
Revry has also started partnering with festivals to connect with content creators, too. And, of course, the company has extended that reach internationally, so far partnering with festivals in places like India, Israel and Brazil. That has resulted in not only U.S.-based original programming, but in the creation of a few internationally based originals. And beyond those efforts, Revry’s board is also interested in drumming up viewership by partnering with more mainstream media companies. Just recently, the service partnered with the comedy video website Funny or Die — famous for shows like “Billy on the Street,” “Drunk History” and “Between Two Ferns” — to produce its Emmy Award-nominated series “Gay of Thrones.”
“So, we have all seasons up for it now, but this last season we did as a co-production with them. And so we did a joint release to make sure they were on Funny or Die and on Revry simultaneously as the episodes would come out,” Daniels said. “That was our first foray into working with one of the mainstream companies to create content that [answered the questions:] Was it authentic? Did it work? Was it funny? If that content provides what we’re looking to do in a show, then yes, it’s a no-brainer for us.”
However, as far-reaching and inclusive as Revry’s content is getting, Daniels said that it’s also important for the company to be cognizant of the safety of its viewers — particularly in places around the world where just identifying as LGBTQ can result in criminal proceedings.
“One of our initial challenges, we realized really early on, was that you had to have a subscription to watch the content,” Daniels said. “It became incredibly clear to us, especially talking about the international side and talking to even just the fact that someone might not want Revry to come up on their credit card statement because they’re still in the closet, that it’s a safety issue.”
In 2017, Daniels said that the company took action to combat this problem and overhauled the company and its services. Though now paying a subscription to receive Revry’s services is an option for those who are able, downloading the app and watching content with commercials allows viewers concerned about their safety to enjoy its LGBTQ-specific entertainment with less worry.
“So that was something that we recently did and we relaunched in September. So, for us, it’s reaching out to people and saying, ‘Hey, this is the new website, this is a brand-new service.’ It looks completely different from when we first launched, the logo’s completely changed, our tagline is different, we’re continuing to evolve and we are looking to our community, we’re looking to our audience, to what they want to view and that’s what we’re trying to provide,” she said.
When asked why the company completely altered its brand, Daniels said that fundamentally it was about fostering a safe, inclusive community.
“We always sort of joke that people don’t really wear Netflix T-shirts because Netflix is a very broad, mainstream service, and it doesn’t really say anything that you watch Netflix. But with Revry, it does say something about you that you watch Revry,” Daniels said. “So it’s to build the community aspect for people, and for people to say, ‘Oh, I want to find my new favorite queer rapper, I’m going to Revry,’ or, ‘I want to find my new favorite digital series, I want to go to Revry.’”
To find out more about the service and its offered content, go online to revry.tv or find it on the Google Play and App Store.