Revry, the LGBTQ streaming service, has thrown its weight behind linear/live channels as part of its growth strategy and is determined to become the first global multichannel TV provider covering this content genre. The company had one linear streamed channel but now has four, none of which are broadcast. They allow the media owner to further specialise within its market.
The launch demonstrates great faith in the relevance of linear TV in the streaming space. Chris J. Rodriguez, Co-founder and Chief Business Officer for Revry, says the company’s job is to curate content for viewers, “and curation can only go so far with on-demand.”
He also thinks linear provides an efficient content discovery journey. “Some services have such a massive amount of content that picking something to watch can be daunting for the viewer, who is just looking to be entertained. With a live TV-focused experience, viewers can tune in and be instantly transported into a world of queer TV without having to work for it. And thanks to the multiple channels, they’ll always find something that they enjoy at any given moment.”
He continues: “While we’ve seen plenty of ‘niche’ SVOD platforms, nobody has attempted to focus on a [streaming market/audience] segment using multichannel live TV. And we have the perfect segment, as LGBTQ is a community of communities, composed of different viewpoints, styles, interest and beliefs. It’s the perfect demographic for a multi-channel experience with a compelling, connecting thread – identity and community.”
Revry is available via connected TV and multiscreen TV apps but its content is also offered by streaming channel aggregators like XUMO TV, TiVo+ and Stream (from Comcast, on Xfinity TV), and within streaming services like STIRR from Sinclair Broadcast Group. The company says it has reach “into over 225 million homes and devices”.
The shift to multichannel followed a backoffice migration to Brightcove Beacon, the new SaaS-based OTT platform that supports on-demand and linear and multiple monetisation models. The total content output from Revry, including on-demand, spans movies, shows, music, podcasts and news, and it includes exclusive originals. The company boasts 1,000 hours of ‘streamable’ content.
Rodriguez is a big fan of Beacon. “We were looking for a technology that enabled a robust live TV experience and other options were lacking in some respect. Beacon had the potential for exactly what we were looking for. Enabling an automatic playlist of VOD content is one thing, but true multichannel live TV with a dynamic EPG is another – and this is quite an upgrade.”
All four channels are free, monetised via advertising. Revry already offered its on-demand content free with ads or with a subscription package that is ad-free (with SVOD and AVOD options within the same app).
The channels are integrated into the Revry app, which is available on platforms including Android TV, Apple TV (tvOS), Roku and Fire TV, as well as on mobile. You can also view a full linear experience (including ‘linear’ presentation rather than just linear playout) via browser for the first time, thanks to the upgrade with Beacon.
The original linear channel could be found on browser, but only as a VOD option that, on pressing play, introduced viewers to live content. Besides the browser, the original live channel was only syndicated to partner platforms (XUMO, TiVo+, Zapping TV and STIRR). Thus, the introduction of multichannel live TV within the owned and operated environments was one of the big wins from the platform upgrade.
Most of the content has been programmed specifically for linear distribution and true live; these are not channels running a selection of VOD content that is presented in sequence against a schedule. “They include calls to action, call-outs to upcoming shows and movies, and theme and day-specific programming,” Rodriguez confirms.
Each channel has a distinct identity. Revry Live is the flagship channel. “This represents a wide range of the type of boundary-pushing content we are known for,” says Rodriguez. Revry Now is a global news channel, Revry 2 has more international content and is more community-focused, with programming suitable for any age group. Revry 3 is more focused on originals.
The new linear channels were launched in time for the coronavirus lockdown and Revry believes it fulfilled a purpose beyond just entertainment at a time when Pride events and LGBTQ film festivals had to be cancelled, and everyone was shut off from the outside world. The company says its free, always-on linear channels provided an unprecedented option for those in need of community.
“This content literally saves lives,” CEO and Co-Founder Damian Pelliccione said part-way through the lockdown. He is referring to how some people may see themselves and their lives reflected back to them in a positive light for the first time ever, and the way it validates different viewpoints, identities, and perspectives in the eyes of society.
“This validation increases acceptance, decreases oppression and encourages self-acceptance and love,” adds Rodriguez.
Talking about its role in building out a new streaming platform for Revry, Rick Hanson, Chief Revenue Officer at Brightcove, comments: “The OTT market is exploding and video is a powerful way to communicate, especially today, so we are excited that Brightcove Beacon gives Revry the opportunity to engage more authentically with their audience through a best-in-class viewing experience.”
Revry is proud of its innovation in streaming. “We were an early niche-focused SVOD offering, and the first global LGBTQ streaming app ever,” declares Rodriguez. “We introduced our hybrid AVOD option years before this became more popular. We’ve had a linear TV channel since 2017.”
The company views itself a virtual cable TV provider but also now “as a niche-focused version of Pluto TV or XUMO but made specifically for the queer community,” in the words of Damian Pelliccione.
Rodriguez expects more content owners to join what he calls “the linear multichannel TV revolution” – by which he means the second multichannel TV revolution, this time enabled by streaming. “I can see other networks doing this for anime fans, car enthusiasts and even horror,” he says. But for now, the company believes it is leading the way.
A spokesperson emphasises: “To our knowledge, no niche-focused streaming network has ever moved beyond the ‘SVOD-only’ product approach to distribution and into multichannel live TV.” And the multichannel expansion at Revry will not stop at four channels. “This is just the beginning,” the spokesperson promises, predicting another major expansion in the second half of this year.
Revry provides a glimpse of what the television landscape could look like once we complete the long transition from broadcast to streaming. While streaming started out as primarily an on-demand experience, linear and live is playing an increasing role, and Revry has made a big play to become a multichannel linear TV provider, with streaming as its distribution mechanism.
But whereas the multichannel media groups that emerged in the first digital transition (on DTT, satellite and cable) segmented mainstream audiences into mainstream sub-segments, the economics of streaming mean you can now serve even smaller market segments with a new linear channel. Thus, Revry has taken a well-known ‘special interest’ – LGBQT – and used its new linear channels to service different parts of that community.
It is linear TV that is being used to serve the ‘long-tail’ rather than just VOD. This is a born-digital media company that has great faith in the power of scheduled programming and channel curation, and the traditional presentation of those channels via an EPG. They are not alone in this: as we reported recently, Endemol Shine Group (the content producer/distributor with some of the biggest programme titles in the world) and Insight TV (the adventure, action, sports, lifestyle, etc., content provider) are both delighted with the audience uptake for their curated linear channels on connected TV.
The additional linear channel specialisation, as seen at Revry, is viable partly because of the reduced cost of distribution in the ‘OTT’ world and partly because services can now be globalised relatively easily (compared to the hurdles facing small/niche media owners in broadcast). Global connected TV and multiscreen platforms smooth the way for international launches, of course.
Revry is also on a growing list of born-digital media owners who will not be defined by monetisation or format; thus, they are AVOD and SVOD, and on-demand plus linear. This is a company that is not found on satellite, cable TV or IPTV (or over-the-air) that is moving closer towards, rather than away from, the linear and EPG user experience.