Two Networks Are Better Than None
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