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Tuning into queer

Tuning into queer


As Logo celebrates its first birthday, the general manager of MTV Networks' cable channel for and about LGBT people looks back on a year of growth--and ahead to a future of even more.

Logo's first birthday on June 30 is as much a significant milestone in Logo's continuing growth as it is a testament to the power and cultural significance of the LGBT audience. To the entertainment industry and advertisers, our audience was once invisible, then peripheral. Today, with films like Brokeback Mountain and the early success of Logo, we have emerged as visible, viable, and valuable.

Viacom's MTV Networks green-lit Logo in 2004, and the new 24/7 channel became the first significant product from a Fortune 500 corporation specifically and explicitly for LGBT consumers. While that fact is striking in its own right, even more significant is that we had a corporate mandate to cast Logo in the mold of all MTV Networks' channels by speaking authentically to the audience we serve. Put simply, Logo would be for and about the LGBT audience, not at us or over us.

So the Logo team began with a founding principle to present stories that reflect the LGBT experience with honesty and diversity, creating a first-ever stage for unseen and unheard LGBT artists and stories. Noah's Arc, our first flagship series, follows the lives of a group of African-American gay men in Los Angeles. Transgeneration, coproduced with Sundance Channel, is an award-winning look at life for transgender youths. And Curl Girls, about lesbian surfers, was an instant sleeper hit. CBS News on Logo is the first LGBT news service produced by the mainstream media establishment. We're airing landmark films like Trembling Before G-d, Beautiful Thing, and Ma Vie en Rose, which were previously seen only by the most intrepid urban art-house aficionados. And our documentaries explore everything from life as a gay Republican to being out in the heartland.

In building the largest array of LGBT-themed films and original series anywhere, we've transformed the television screen into a window on the LGBT experience. Still, the timeless rough-and-tumble rules of show business don't discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. So when we launched a year ago, the bar for Logo's business model was set very high. To succeed, we were told, we needed to penetrate as many cable and satellite homes as possible, secure a significant threshold of advertisers, and build a meaningful bond with our audience.

One year later, we're on the air in 20 million homes, more than any other LGBT cable channel and twice as many as we promised at launch. Sure, we're on cable systems from San Francisco to New York, but Chicago's Boystown isn't all that occupies the space in between. We're in Joplin, Mo.; Amarillo, Texas; La Crosse, Wis.; and thousands of other communities, including anyplace a DirectTV dish can be mounted. There are now 60 world-class advertisers reaching out to Logo's audience, including American Express, Subaru, Kodak, Garnier, and every single Hollywood studio.

And, on the most important benchmark, we have cemented a bond with our audience that is unprecedented. Our first research project, conducted early this year, revealed some incredible viewing habits among Logo viewers. While most Americans watch network TV for specific shows (people are fans of Lost first, ABC second), Logo viewers watch for hours at a time, and they're actually watching the commercials to see which advertisers are reaching out to our community.

The Logo story thus far is pretty striking, but we've only written chapter 1. As iPods, high-speed cell phones, and broadband Internet proliferate, Logo is quickly moving to put our programming beyond the living room to portable media players, Internet cafes on the other side of the world, and everywhere in between. On the Web, houses the largest library of LGBT-themed broadband video anywhere in cyberspace, from a collection of the very best in short films to dozens of the LGBT audience's favorite music videos and digisodes from our lineup of original series. And our programming will continue to expand both in the depth of genres and in the reflection of our community, including a sketch comedy show early next year.

The viability of Logo's model of a free 24/7 LGBT channel is dependent on the support and commitment of our audience. Logo is about us, by us, and for us, and we hope the network and all our programming makes a meaningful difference for millions of LGBT Americans. Other than boy gets boy and girl gets girl, that's about the best Hollywood story the LGBT audience could ask for.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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