Two Networks Are Better Than None

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Apr 13, 2005
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By David Morse, President & CEO, New American Dimensions, http://www.newamericandimensions.com/

Since the beginning of broadcast time, gays and lesbians have not had a place to call their own on the small screen.

Sure, there have been gay characters. Archie Bunker found out his drinking buddy was gay in 1971, the season’s first episode. Since then we’ve seen Roseanne’s same-sex kiss, Ellen’s emergence from the closet — on TV and in real life, Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and The L Word. But there had never really been a U.S. television network just for gays — until now!

I qualify my last sentence with a couple of adjectives. I say “U.S”. because Canada launched PrideVision TV in 2000, what they call the “world’s first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) network to broadcast 24/7.”

I also qualify with the word “really” because here! TV launched a gay and lesbian network eighteen months ago in the U.S, but with limited distribution. Things changed last week when here! pulled off a major coup when Comcast and Cox Communications agreed to distribute the network as part of their video-on-demand offerings, making it available to 40 million U.S. households.

The biggest news will occur on June 30th when Viacom, the largest owner of cable networks, will launch another gay network – Logo. Significantly, Logo will be advertiser supported and offered as a basic cable channel.

According to an article in this week’s New York Times, getting cable operators to agree to carry Logo has been a challenge, despite the marketing muscle of Viacom. According to Nicole Browning, an executive at Viacom’s MTV Networks, selling Logo has been an “eye-opener.” One senior cable operator told her “If we launch that network here, I will personally resign.” Another denied having gays in his market.

Paul Colichman, president of Regent Entertainment, the company that produces here!, agrees that life can be tough selling GLBT TV. “The real story is that a basic cable channel that deals with the gay community is risky. Forgetting major metropolitan areas, in most systems in the U.S., if they say we are going to have a gay channel that any kid can watch, it will trigger controversy.”

Moderator’s Comment: Are the majority of marketers selling to mainstream America ready to advertise in media directed at gays and lesbians? If you’re
responsible for purchasing media for Wal-Mart, Kroger, J.C. Penney or other retailer targeted to mainstream America, do you buy time on these networks? Why or why not?

In its study, The U.S. Gay and Lesbian Market, Packaged Facts estimates that there are 15 million gay and lesbian adults in the United States with
$581 billion in purchasing power. To give some perspective, in the 2000 Census there were 23 million adult Hispanics and the same number of adult African Americans.

Gays are visible like never before, at work, on television, in the media, even on RetailWire. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support
equal rights for gays and some legal recognition of same sex couples.

From my perspective as a multicultural market researcher, more and more companies are taking an interest in the GLBT market and are beginning to look at
gays and lesbians as a multicultural segment.

Gay networks represent a major leap forward in terms of advertising options. Before, advertisers had two options. The first, gay targeted publications and
event sponsorship, is effective but limited in scope. The second, mainstream advertising has wide reach but runs the risk of alienating mainstream consumers.

For forward thinking companies that are looking to target gay and lesbian consumers, Logo might just offer the best of both worlds. Its original programming
for gays is sure to attract a wide audience. And being its own network, those that oppose gay and lesbian targeted advertising will have the option of changing the channel.


David Morse – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Two Networks Are Better Than None"


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Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 10 months ago

There is so much fear right now of offending the religious right that I suspect many advertisers will not choose to support this network. However, anyone marketing to young, affluent segments would be wise to choose this one. Most young people both acknowledge knowing gay people (more than older people do), and the vast majority have no issues with gays. So, straight or gay, marketing to this audience will garner the support of a younger target audience. Truly mainstream marketers, I suspect, will shy away until the current political climate changes, assuming it does.

One point that should be noted, is that the gay population tends to have more disposable income (as a percentage of income) because less of it is spent on children. Marketers of luxury items should take note.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 10 months ago

It’s interesting that the issue of a gay and lesbian channel appears on the same day as marketing to Christians. Maybe the key question to marketers is NOT how/whether you market to gays and lesbians. NOR is it how you market to Christians. But rather, how you market in a country where opinions and beliefs are so polarized.

It makes perfect sense for a company to want to reach out to a population of 15 million people. And yet, one could wonder whether the vocal Christian right would turn against a company that did. The amount of activism directed at the Terry Schiavo situation could easily make a company scared to raise even a fraction of that ire towards itself or its products.

My question to marketers is — To what degree do you feel constrained in your marketing messages by fear of highly conservative but vocal segments?

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Many companies already reach out to the gay community with impunity – Subaru, American Airlines, Lillian Vernon AND J.C. Penney … and others have directly targeted the GLBT community then pretended they didn’t when it was no longer politically expedient (Coors). I like to think that the train has already left the station and there will be no turning back in terms of acceptance but it will become a matter of degree/not black and white. The question remains how far out on a limb product and service providers will be willing to go AND whether the GLBT community will “accept” easy fixes (partner benefits, non-discrimination policies, discrete advertising at gay events) or demand more of a commitment.

James Brothers
Guest
James Brothers
15 years 10 months ago

Without a doubt retailers are ready to advertise on a Gay Channel. Having worked for the largest home improvement retailer in several different stores in the St. Louis market, I can tell you that the gay customers definitely display the ability and willingness to spend…spend…SPEND!

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 10 months ago

The extreme right dominance in this country will go away once Hillary takes over in 2008. The disposable income of the GLBT segment will only increase over time (and I think the current number is very conservative). I haven’t seen any uproar against companies or retailer’s who advertise on “Queer-Eye” (which also has a large following of hetero women), so I would hope mainstream advertisers would use that as a benchmark.

I think the plus side of product’s advertised on the network will outweigh the negatives as the members of the GLBT community will be more prone to purchase them than Billy Bob would be to stop. The GLBT community consists of a broad spectrum of people who, and I suspect, would be eager to reward manufacturer’s and retailers with their loyalty for advertising on the network.

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 10 months ago
If Logo is having such a tough time persuading cable operators, it is not surprising. While the GLBT market has been identified as a lucrative niche for brands like Jaguar, Volvo and various other categories, the marketing experts and media representing this market have not banded together like the Hispanic or other multicultural market groups, who have consistently through association led group representations, conference industry circuits, press and PR, created a ripple effect of knowledge and intelligence touting the business case for this segment. It is 2005, and the United States of America — why should there even be a discussion of the role and relevance for a GLBT channel, or how to persuade operators or advertisers? Let not sexual orientation or politics distract marketers from the reality of GLBT customers and communities, who are very much a part of our society and our economy. The issue is not about the freedom to run or view the channel, but the skill in targeting this segment sensitively and for a variety product categories. Leisure and Luxury… Read more »
Jon Ortiz
Guest
Jon Ortiz
15 years 10 months ago

So far, major companies have been able to target the GLBT market mostly through print ads in gay and lesbian magazines and newspapers. It allowed them to reach out to a potentially lucrative market while “staying in the closet” will other customers who don’t read those publications.

My sense is that Logo won’t be viewed by many straight people, so, after a few months of protest from the usual suspects on the religious right, advertisers will feel safe buying ad time.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Karen is right. I wish it weren’t true, but at least for now, it is. I recall in 1966, fresh out of high school, in my summer intern job as a reporter for the suburban paper outside Boston, I was sent out to interview passersby on whether or not blacks and whites should marry. And it was earnestly debated in this educated, predominantly upscale white city. It boggles the mind to think this was even discussed seriously as an issue then, and it shows that although change comes slowly, it does come.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Gee Anna, I’ll bet it is similar to the degree of constraint they feel from highly vocal liberals (like the PETA boycotts, the PUSH boycotts, the ….)

Point being that there is always going to be someone willing to take a shot at you from somewhere. About the only way to stay above the fray is consistency in an advertiser or retailer’s behavior — and that’s no guarantee of immunity — but at least it lets you point to your integrity. Hopefully we all still respect that.

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