“I want the site to be massively commercial but give us visibility,” OML founder and CEO Shirin Papillon told me at the party, held Saturday at Saint Felix in Hollywood. “Lesbians want to be represented, good, bad, ugly.”
Under the terms of the deal, tello will retain its brand and remain a subscription site, but all of its content will be hosted under OML. What that means is OML now has free, pay-per-view and subscription offerings for its customers.
OML bills itself as the leading online provider of lesbian film and TV content. For its part, tello is smaller, but it collects enough in monthly subscriptions to finance a percentage of its programming. OML currently distributes a number of lesbian short and feature-length films, documentaries, TV series, and web series from around the world. It has an On Demand pay site, OML+, along with free videos at its main URL.
According to GLAAD’s most recent report on TV characters, roughly 65% of LGBT characters on television were gay or bisexual men, while only 35% were lesbian or bisexual women. (Relevant aside: Transgender characters continue to be virtually shut out of mainstream representation.) Lesbian websites and web series have benefitted from this lack of representation, but competition online and the challenges users still have finding content no doubt contributed to tello and OML joining forces.
Viewership for tello’s series is small but passionate. The first episode of Cowgirl Up‘s next season was received rapturously at the premiere party. The season, funded in part through Kickstarter, featured higher production values and more characters, including Aasha Davis (Pariah, The Unwritten Rules). She’s an alum of TEENick’s South of Nowhere, the creator of which runs Cowgirl Up.