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Logo launches Thursday (16390)

16390Entertainment News2005-06-30

Logo launches Thursday

The prospect of a television channel entirely devoted to gay programs for gay people may strike some as unnecessary and others as a sign of immoral times. Media giant Viacom thinks there's money in it. Logo, launching on Thursday under the MTV Networks umbrella, is not the first channel to target gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, but it is the most widely available, on cable boxes in 10 million homes.

And it is the first time a major U.S. conglomerate such as Viacom has entered a niche market that, despite Logo's promise to deliver family-friendly entertainment, is viewed with concern by some of the same people who worry about too much sex, violence, and profanity on TV. "It's going to be a tough road, and you need a Viacom to drive that truck," said Paul Colichman, head of Here, a video-on-demand gay satellite channel launched in 2003. "Our mere existence offends people."

Logo has been in the works for more than two years under the guidance of Brian Graden, the man responsible for such MTV hits as The Osbournes. Logo has bought 200 movies and has more than 20 new documentaries scheduled for the first year as well as half a dozen original series, including a drama titled Noah's Arc, about four black gay men in Los Angeles.

Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at Concerned Women for America, a conservative evangelical group of 500,000 members, said it was "a sad day for America." She said MTV was in a powerful position to influence youth and that it was "unconscionable" to present in a positive view a promiscuous lifestyle that causes "illnesses and diseases." "I see it as indoctrination of children to present the gay lifestyle as something that's normal, as something they don't have any choice over," Crouse said in an interview.

Logo general manager Lisa Sherman cited studies saying there are some 15 million openly gay people in America, an attractive demographic for advertisers, considering that many will have no children, meaning more disposable income. Logo's advertisers include travel company Orbitz, carmaker Subaru, mobile phone maker Motorola, and Miller Lite beer.

Frank Olsen, founder and major shareholder of Q, a small satellite subscription gay channel, said the reason there are now three players is simple--money. "I don't think anybody has become more tolerant of gay people. The Christian right still says we're going to be condemned and we're going to be in hell," Olsen said. "But Ford needs to sell more cars, and if they can sell them to gay people without offending straight people, they will."

Q and Here market themselves as just another of the many niche options out there, from golfing to gardening channels. Colichman said more than 30% of his viewers are straight--a figure he says includes feminists and liberals sick of the way women are portrayed in the mainstream media as well as straight men who will watch anything about lesbians. Here sells monthly subscriptions for $6.99 to $9.99 as well as single programs for $3.99, and Colichman said the company registers around 1 million transactions a month, fairly evenly split between single sales and subscriptions. "Our business is growing by 15% per week," he said, adding that he had spent $50 million on content in 18 months. Colichman's production company, Regent Entertainment, is an established player with such hit movies as Gods and Monsters. He sells content to television stations in over 100 countries. He sees Logo as another customer for Regent.

Village Voice columnist Michael Musto appears in a documentary about the history of gay Americans that will kick off Logo's programming on Thursday. He said comedies like Will & Grace paved the way for mainstream gay TV, and cable channels pushed the boundaries even further with the likes of The L Word, about glamorous lesbians in Los Angeles. Despite that, Musto said Logo appears to be treading cautiously. "We live in a very puritanical culture that gets very queasy about sexuality issues of any kind, and that may be why Logo is soft-pedaling the sexuality issue," Musto said. (Claudia Parsons, via Reuters)

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