Logo Off to Fast Start With Subs, Sponsors

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Logo, the new gay-targeted network, overachieved at birth last week.

The new basic-cable channel launched last week in 13 million homes, with commitments taking it to nearly 18 million homes. That's 8 million more than the 10 million Logo promised to have at launch and includes a July 1 deal with top U.S. MSO Comcast Corp.

It also lined up a solid roster of charter sponsors, led by Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Lite and Motorola Inc.

“We exceeded our expectations on both distribution and advertising, and it's just going to be great television,” Logo general manager Lisa Sherman said.

Logo isn't the only gay-aimed cable TV service racking up initial successes. Here!, already available in 44 million homes, and Q Television Network, both pay services, reportedly are putting the finishing touches on new distribution deals with MSOs.

MTV Networks tied up several crucial last-minute carriage agreements for Logo, which went on the air last Thursday at 9 p.m. with a serious table-setter, The Evolution Will Be Televised, a traditional-style documentary tracking the emergence of the gay community over the past few decades, through landmark events like 1969's Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village and through pop-culture breakthroughs like Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Showtime's Queer as Folk and The L Word.

Logo debuted Thursday night in 13 million homes. The new network was also being carried on Comcast's urban San Francisco system — a key market — on Thursday evening, even though the MSO didn't formally announce that it had a Logo carriage deal until Friday.

Comcast will add Logo to its Digital Plus package in select markets during the next 90 days — and also get 10 hours of Logo fare to offer to digital customers on-demand.

LAST-DAY DEALS

A day before its launch, Logo wrapped up carriage deals with DirecTV Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.

“DirecTV gives us the national footprint that we were hoping to have,” Sherman said.

Logo also has affiliation agreements with Cablevision Systems Corp., Time Warner Cable in New York City, Adelphia Communications Corp., RCN Corp. and Atlantic Broadband.

Negotiations continue with other carriers, including Cox Communications Inc.

While there's been an uptick of cable offerings for the gay and transgender community, Logo is the first to be backed by a major media company — powerful Viacom Inc. — and the first offered as a basic service.

That positioning could prove problematic, making Logo vulnerable to a potential backlash.

Logo officials are downplaying that prospect, but several conservative watchdog groups, such as the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America, are already voicing concerns about Logo — and threatening action.

“This [Logo] appears to be an effort to indoctrinate our children,” said Janice Crouse, senior fellow for the Concerned Women's think tank, the Beverly LaHaye Institute. “We have not determined exactly what our response is going to be at this point, but we very definitely will be doing something.

“We have grassroots organizations in 20 different states and we have prayer chapters in even more states. So we can mobilize people very quickly and very effectively.”

NOT 'INDOCTRINATING'

Logo officials said the network's not interested in indoctrinating America's youth. “Logo is an entertainment channel programmed specifically for and about gay Americans 25 and above,” a network spokesman said.

Elsewhere, the Traditional Values Coalition, a lobbying organization with 43,000 member churches, is urging members to write their cable operators if they start carrying Logo, according to the group's executive director, Andrea Lafferty.

“A big problem with this is — there are many problems — one being that it's not a pay-per-view kind of thing,” she said. “On basic it comes right into the home. … People don't want this kind of stuff in their home.”

Coming from another perspective, QTN CEO Frank Olsen voiced his own concerns.

“I don't say we have to hide in the closet,” Olsen said. But he believes basic cable should be “generic,” and that Logo risks offense by coming into a home uninvited.

“Here's what I'm afraid of — that Logo will stir up the pot. I think we should have a gay tier. That way, if someone subscribes, they know what they're getting.”

Having already signed up a solid roster of distributors, Logo won't be deterred by such worries.

“We cannot allow that to be a problem for us,” Sherman said. “Our mission is really to serve this audience, and that's what we're really focused on. To the extent we get bogged down in any of that, it's just going to take us off our game.”

AD ROSTER SWELLS

Last week, Logo updated its advertiser roster with not only Miller Lite and Motorola but also Tylenol PM, Lions Gate Films, Key West - The Fabulous Gay & Lesbian Destination, and Logo's sister service, Showtime Networks Inc.

“It's just a testament to how they view this channel and this audience,” Sherman said.

Officials with Here! and QTN said they deliberately avoided Logo's ad-supported route. Here! is available as a premium, on demand or via PPV, while QTN is a premium network.

QTN — a self-described gay sports, information and entertainment network — wants “to be invited into homes,” according to Olsen.

Paul Colichman, Here!'s founder and CEO, felt he'd have to make too many compromises to satisfy advertisers if his service, which offers a wide array of original programming and theatricals, was on basic.

“It was incompatible with getting a lot of carriage, which is what I wanted,” he said. “And the basic-cable model was one that was difficult for me creatively, because of what advertisers would let me do, and difficult for me on a business level, because cable operators and satellite providers were uninterested in basic channels in general, and specifically uninterested in basic channels that might alienate a significant percent of their subscribers.”

Here! is carried by DirecTV, EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Time Warner, Cablevision and RCN.

QTN is now only carried by RCN, but Olsen said it is close to finalizing agreements with two MSOs that would make it available to 25 million homes.

BASIC STANDARDS

Officials stressed that Logo will program within the normal standards of basic cable, with acquisitions that include HBO's Angels in America and a library of 200 films.

“Our mission is to be a general-entertainment channel that represents the diversity of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] audience, and that the programming be authentic and real,” Sherman said. “I like to say we will focus on gay people as subject and not object. And we put them in the center of our stories.”

But groups like the Traditional Values Coalition object to any depiction of homosexuality as a “legitimate” lifestyle.

One of Logo's original series is Noah's Arc, about a group of gay men in Los Angeles.

“You know what?” Lafferty said. “There were no gays on the ark. Homosexuals cannot multiply. God brought in animals and humans two-by-two so they could multiply. So there were no homosexuals on the ark.”

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