MTV announces launch of gay cable network. Logo will debut in February

By Gary Susman
May 26, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Massachusetts, Schmassachusetts. What gay people really need is their own TV channel. So suggested MTV chairman Tom Freston in a statement Tuesday announcing MTV’s long-in-development launch of a cable channel aimed at gay viewers. ”Despite our nation’s progress on civil rights and the growing visibility of gay people in business, society and even in television programming — what has been missing is a full-time home for this important and influential audience on television,” Freston said as he announced that the network, called Logo, will debut nationwide in February. ”We have big plans and hopes for Logo and I’m thrilled to finally announce its arrival.”

Logo will not be just about sex and sexuality, Freston said in a conference call to reporters. If anything, because Logo will be an advertiser-sponsored channel on basic cable, it’ll be less explicit than some existing networks. For instance, as Variety noted, if Logo bought reruns of ”Queer as Folk” or ”The L Word” from sister channel Showtime, it would have to edit out the nudity and profanity.

A lot of Logo’s fare will be reruns. MTV Networks president Judy McGrath told Variety that the channel is launching with only 25 percent of its schedule devoted to original content, to be created in collaboration with such fellow Viacom outlets as MTV, VH1, CBS News, TV Land, and Comedy Central. The rest will include familiar movies (Logo is buying rights to 100 of them), some of them gay-themed (”Gods and Monsters,” ”The Birdcage,”) some merely campy (”Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”).

Besides sexual orientation, Logo is about tapping into a market rarely delivered to TV ad buyers. Citing its market research, MTV says that there are an estimated 15 million gay adults in the U.S., with a projected buying power of $485 billion. Of course, some potential advertisers may avoid Logo, lest they face boycotts like the one already threatened by the Traditional Values Coalition. Calling for a boycott on all Logo advertisers, the coalition’s chief, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, told the New York Times that Logo was ”bad news for American families,” and that ”Madison Avenue has gone amok” if it thinks Logo is a suitable outlet to support with advertising dollars. Freston responded by telling the Times that polls indicated an increasingly tolerate climate for a gay network. ”We don’t expect any huge backlash,” he said.