NEW YORK — Viacom’s MTV unit on Tuesday said it will launch Logo, its long-planned music channel for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered viewers, next February with the goal of attracting an audience of 10 million to 14 million people.
Logo will launch Feb. 17 and will be the first-ever 24/7 LGBT TV channel. The effort is being spearheaded by MTV chairman Tom Freston; Judy McGrath, president of MTV Networks music and comedy group, and Matt Farber, a consultant to MTV who created and led the development of Logo. The channel is expected to break even in two to three years, Freston projected in a conference call Tuesday.
“Despite the progress the U.S. has made in civil rights, one thing that has been missing is a full-time home on TV for the LGBT audience,” Freston said. “We’ve been asked if we timed [the announcement] to coincide with the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts. It’s just a coincidence. We wish we could have done it earlier this year.” (Plans for the on-again off-again channel were first revealed in January 2002.)
Logo will begin as a basic-service, digital cable channel — augmented by an on-demand option for racier content — with an emphasis on entertainment and lifestyle programming, plus a dose of news and documentaries produced in conjunction with Viacom’s CBS News unit.
Initial efforts to cultivate advertisers are centered on industries that traditionally have marketed in gay-specific media, such as airlines, automotive, financial services and pharmaceuticals and brands like IBM, GM, American Airlines, United Airlines and Avis. Less-frequent players, including fashion firms, are being targeted, too. “We have been reaching out to a number of [individual] organizations that have a strong relationship to this market, including Levi’s and Nike,” said an MTV spokeswoman.
In addition, Farber said, with the offer of corporate sponsorships of programs, “We’re getting a lot of interest from advertisers beyond what we’d normally see in demand for 30-second spots.” Also in the offing are product placement opportunities; contests and sweepstakes, and online integration with a Logo Web site.
Distribution deals for Logo with cable TV services including Time Warner, RCN and Adelphia have been struck in a half-dozen major metropolitan markets: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Efforts to find an audience are being focused on cable systems in the top 30 metropolitan areas and other markets with highly concentrated gay or lesbian populations. Viewers ages 25 through 49 are the primary target.
In its first year on TV, Logo aims to draw between 10 million and 14 million of an estimated 12 million to 16 million self-identified lesbian and gay adults, with buying power estimated at $485 billion annually. That’s quite bullish, but Farber noted approximately 95 percent of lesbians and 96 percent of gay men surveyed expressed a “strong interest” in receiving the channel in their basic cable service, and three-quarters said they’d pay a premium for it. The latter response sparked creation of the on-demand option.
About 25 percent of Logo’s programming will be original when the channel debuts, but the goal is to quickly boost that share. Although few programming details were divulged, the spokeswoman said, “You can imagine we will focus on the issues important to the LGBT community and, clearly, fashion and design are aspects of life that matter to the group.”
Monthly newsmagazines and regular news breaks, produced with CBS News; a “Gay 100” program detailing gay contributions to popular culture, and deals in the works to acquire 100 gay-related movies from studios like Sony, Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros. and Showtime were among the few programming bits revealed Tuesday.