The two U.S. cable networks currently catering to gay and lesbian viewers are looking to new shows and new platforms to grow their audiences and revenue, while a third, competing outlet was forced to go dark earlier this year.
It’s very much business as usual for Logo and Here TV, whereas Q Television Network decided to throw in the towel a few weeks ago.
“The financial challenges that [QTN] faced proved too difficult, and I was simply unable to turn around the network,” said QTN CEO Lloyd Fan, in a prepared statement.
“Given the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender demographic and the success the network had experienced in distribution, I thought securing funding would be easy — I was wrong,” said Fan.
The ad-supported QTN reached nearly 3 million homes through providers such as Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc. and RCN Corp.
According to TV historian and executive vice president of research at Lifetime Television Tim Brooks, some of the challenges are common to any network, regardless of how broad or niche-based its target audience may be. “Aside from gay and lesbian or anything else, it’s very difficult to get a network started,” Brooks said. “You need a lot of deep pockets and a lot of patience. Even if you have a great idea that people want, it’s still difficult.”
Meanwhile, Logo, the younger of the two gay-and-lesbian networks, just celebrated its one-year anniversary on a positive note.
“We promised to launch in 10 million homes and now we’re in over 20 million,” said general manager and senior vice president Lisa Sherman, who said viewer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Viacom-owned Logo is not rated by Nielsen Media Research.
The network has also seen growth in its first year in terms of advertising. “We started out with three charter advertisers and now we have over 50 top-tier, great brand advertisers,” Sherman said.
Third-party research conducted through Harris Interactive in January reported that over 70% of Logo viewers said they are more likely to buy a brand if it is advertised on that network versus on any other non-pay channel. Sherman believes that is the sign of an underserved audience that pays very close attention to who is marketing to them.
Logo advertisers include auto manufacturers like General Motors Co., Saturn Corp. and Subaru of America Inc., along with American Express Co., Motorola Inc. and major Hollywood movie studios.
MORE NEW SHOWS
Logo launched 10 original shows this year, which Sherman says helped the audience connect with the network. “We’ve got a ton of great programming and we are extremely proud of the connection we’ve built with our audience in such a short period of time.”
Four additional shows were recently given the production greenlight:
- The Service is a one hour drama that looks at the complicated life of enlisted gays and lesbians on an active military base on the Pacific Ocean.
- Sordid Lives: The Series is a prequel to the play and cult film Sordid Lives. This half-hour comedy follows an eccentric Texas family whose intertwining off-kilter lives ultimately lead to the death of the family matriarch.
- That Gay Ghost, from Maverick Television, is a half-hour situation comedy pilot about the lives of the conservative Carson family who move to San Francisco and find that their lives are changed forever when they discover Cosmo, a gay ghost living in the closet of their new home.
- Reconnection, a half-hour reality series, gives participants an opportunity to confront friends and loved ones who disowned them because of their sexuality.
CBS will cover this month’s Gay Games in Chicago for Logo through its partnership with the network called “CBS News on Logo.”
Some 10,000 athletes from all over the world are expected to compete in the games, which will be held July 15-22.
Coverage will include the opening ceremony, athlete interviews and important stories that come out of the games, said Sherman. “The Gay Games is very attractive to sponsors, and I cannot be happier with how our advertisers understand the value of this audience and how many different ways they are looking to connect with the audience.”
The network is also experimenting with broadband and wireless opportunities. Launched in March, “LOGOMotion” includes on-demand series, stand-up comedy, music videos, news and travel programming for Amp’d Mobile devices. Logo content is also expected to be available on Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store this summer.
“Our audience is on the leading edge of technology,” said Sherman, who hopes to “really use those platforms as ambassadors for the channel.”
WORKING WITH OPERATORS
Launched in 2002, premium service Here Networks is looking to grow, in part, by reaching out to operators in different ways.
Last month, for instance, the Here marketing team worked closely with local operators in major cities to promote at Gay Pride Festivals. For many operators, it’s a way to reach a new affluent membership base, according to Karen Flischel, executive vice president and general manager of Here.
“We have tried to make ourselves available in a way that would accommodate a variety of cable operators,” said Flischel. “For some that meant a linear channel, for others that meant transactional [video on demand].”
Either way, the network’s attention to cable operators is landing big distribution deals. Here recently announced it is now available to Time Warner Digital Cable customers in Syracuse, N.Y.; Kansas City, Kan.; and Southeast Wisconsin, as a premium network. In addition to the 24/7 premium channel, Here subscribers will also receive the network’s VOD service featuring dozens of titles.
“At the beginning of this year, Time Warner gave us the ability to go out and pitch subscription-based VOD to all of these divisions, which we are currently doing and picking up one at a time,” said Flischel. “We’ll probably get eight to ten new [subscription VOD] this year alone and continue to meet with people to upgrade from VOD to SVOD.”
Flischel said cable operators have been very supportive and understand that Here is a legitimate revenue generator that is also a gateway to an audience that they may have never had access to before.
“It’s getting easier because we’re available to 50 million homes today,” said Flischel.
Here also distributes its content via broadband, with programming available through GoogleVideo, Akimbo and MovieLink.
The company’s online division operates several Web sites, with an aggregate of some 2 million unique visitors a month.
“Our view is that we want our content to be available wherever and however people want to gain access to it,” said Flischel. “That’s really our approach and philosophy and I think it will continue to grow.”
Flischel said TiVo Inc., for instance, will soon make broadband content available to Here subscribers through its TivoCast initiative.
Here’s Production Efforts
On the content front, Here Films has become a major producer and releasing company for independent films marketed to the gay and lesbian audience. Recent and upcoming 2006 original films, series and specials on Here include John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You, hosted by the cult filmmaker; the second season of supernatural soap opera Dante’s Cove; and Shock To The System: A Donald Strachey Mystery, the second installment in the series of films starring Chad Allen as a gay private investigator.
“We’ve had a very fast-paced year,” said Flischel, “and don’t anticipate it slowing down.”