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Exclusive: Philo quietly doubles donation of ad inventory to social causes

The streaming service increased its commitment of $1 million donated last year.

The streaming service increased its commitment of $1 million donated last year.

(Logo: Philo, Graphic designed by The Desk)

Wallet-friendly streaming television service Philo has doubled down on its philanthropic endeavors, donating $2 million in advertisement inventory to social justice causes and other charitable initiatives.

The revelation was made in a wide-ranging interview with Philo’s Chief Executive Andrew McCollum, which is expected to be published by The Desk next week.

The commitment comes nearly one year after Philo said it would offer up $1 million in commercial advertisement inventory to Black-owned businesses and other social initiatives, a move that was first reported by The Desk last July.

This year, Philo decided to expand its donation, committing another $1 million in commercial advertisement inventory and expanding the list of eligible groups who could receive it. Those groups include organizations who represent military veteran, Hispanic, indigenous and LGBTQ+ individuals and causes.

“We’re continuing our program of donating ad inventory to social justice causes and other philanthropic causes…and we’re trying to find ways to expand on that and make it work even better for those organizations,” McCollum said.

Philo Chief Executive Officer Andrew McCollum
Philo Chief Executive Officer Andrew McCollum is pictured in an undated image. (Photo: Philo/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

Philo operates as a streaming service that re-distributes pay television channels over the Internet. The service offers cable channels from ViacomCBS (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon), A+E Networks (A&E, History), AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, BBC America), Discovery Communications (Animal Planet, Discovery Channel) and others for $25 a month.

Just like cable, the channels that appear on Philo are supported through short commercial breaks. Philo is able to tap into a limited number of minutes per break. The time, known within the industry as a “local insertion break,” is a way for pay TV operators like Philo to recoup some money charged by programmers while raising additional revenue.

In Philo’s case, those local insertion breaks are more likely to contain messages of empowerment, diversity and inclusion thanks to its charitable donation rather than commercial solicitations or programming announcements. Groups that have benefitted from Philo’s advertisement initiative include the Wounded Warriors Project, the Transgender District of San Francisco, the Black Trans Femmes in the Art (BFTA) Collective and the Equality Federation, according to a Philo spokesperson.

McCollum said Philo’s philanthropy goes beyond the wallet. Last year, the company co-produced an initiative with the National Urban League called the “Power Lunch Series” that empowered Black business owners with skills and tools to improve their digital marketing strategies.

“We’ve had a number of other [initiatives], where we can partner with different communities to share knowledge we may have and build different kind of connections,” McCollum said.

Philo’s charity is not necessarily “driven by some business objective,” McCollum affirmed. Instead, it is part of a broader exercise toward building a company where he and his team can feel proud to work while making an impact on customers, partners and communities.

“If we treat our customers well, we build a great product, we treat our team well, and we support people both inside our company and outside, that’s going to lead us to building the most-successful business,” he affirmed. “Part of our philanthropic focus is…feeling like, the things we care about as a company, our values, our principles are not simply reflected in our product, it’s also reflected through the opportunities we have as a company to influence the world in a positive way.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).