Thursday, July 21, 2005

We Want Our Queer TV

(Link) Intrepid Nielson researchers find enormous hidden WNBA fanbase and that not everybody loves Raymond.

5 comments:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From US News & World Report

By Victoria Hallett

When the Fab Five waltzed onto Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy two years ago, they were heralded as gay ambassadors to heterosexual America, capable of closing the cultural divide with superior hairstyling products and hip party tips. On The O.C. last season, Marisa briefly flirted with a lesbian love affair before pairing up with Ryan again, and on Desperate Housewives Bree reached out to her sexually confused teenage son by telling him, "I'd love you even if you were a murderer."




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What do all of these portrayals of gay life have in common?

"They were for straight people," says Damon Romine, the media director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

After decades of glimpsing homosexual characters as cameos during "very special" episodes or in mostly asexual contexts on the shows Ellen and Will & Grace, gay and lesbian viewers now have three networks devoted entirely to them. On June 30, Logo rolled out to 13 million homes, becoming the first ad-supported gay network and joining two existing premium networks: Here!, available to 44 million viewers, and Q, accessible to just 1 million homes.

Now it's up to the trio to figure out what exactly those queer eyes want to watch. Logo debuted with "The Evolution Will Be Televised," a documentary about homosexuality in America. Stephen Tropiano, author of Primetime Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV and one of the experts interviewed in the program, thinks the kickoff was a bold one.

"[The documentary] tied the politics of the time with the culture much more than I expected, especially with the AIDS crisis," he says. Still, Logo is shying away from controversy by maintaining a low profile in these early weeks, airing innocuous fare like Can't Stop the Music, the Steve Guttenberg flick about the rise of the Village People, and a Melissa Etheridge music special. The network plans to roll out more-substantial original programming soon, including the series "Noah's Arc," about a black screenwriter in L.A.; comedian Scott Thompson's same-sex wedding show; documentaries on issues like being gay and Hispanic; and special programs, including GLAAD's media awards show.

Like Logo, Here! is balancing its catalogue of gay-themed films with a wide variety of its own shows, including movies and scripted programming. Boasting about the $50 million Here! has spent in the past year on such projects, network chief Paul Colichman says viewers will soon be able to tune into the submarine thriller Tides of War ("It's the gay Das Boot.") and Dante's Cove, a Dawson's Creek-meets-Buffy the Vampire Slayer teen drama that follows what happens when a young man breaks the curse a witch had placed on her gay husband. Q has found its niche covering events, like the Gay Games.

Which of these programs will be a hit? Paul Lindstrom, vice president of national custom research for Nielsen ratings, has been trying to measure gay television viewing habits for more than 10 years. So far, it looks like differences in gay and straight viewers are significant, particularly when it comes to shows featuring gay and lesbian characters. Although Nielsen hasn't released numbers, the OpusComm research group has found that the top five programs among gay viewers are Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Six Feet Under, and Law & Order — no Everybody Loves Raymond in sight.

"Certain aberrations also make sense," Lindstrom says. "Basketball, related to the WNBA perhaps, has a much greater following among lesbians than women as a whole."




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"I hope Logo doesn't get caught in the trap of thinking all gay people are between 20 and 30 and live in urban areas," says OpusComm President Jeffrey Garber. "You want to program to your largest target audience. People in their 30s and 40s are at home more and can afford premium cable. If you focus too much on the MTV crowd, you lose potential."

And snagging as many viewers as possible is of course key—both for Here! and Q, which rely on subscribers, and Logo, which needs to convince advertisers that gays and lesbians are tuning in. Getting advertisers at all may be a struggle for the Viacom-owned network, given that companies have been traditionally reluctant to deal with the backlash that comes from supporting gay enterprises. But there are already a number of big names on board, including Orbitz, Subaru, Motorola, and Miller Lite.

As a business model, selling to gay America is a no-brainer, Colichman says.

"It's rare that the wealthiest niche is underserved," he observes. The officially gay networks may just be popping up now, but the fact that gay audiences are an attractive crowd hasn't been lost on other networks, particularly Showtime, which airs Queer as Folk and The L Word, two programs that have been particularly successful in the gay community for their characters and themes. Bravo topped the list of cable networks in the OpusComm study, which comes as no surprise to the home of Queer Eye as well as arts programming. "Gay culture leads to trends, and that's a de facto piece of Bravo," explains network President Lauren Salaznick.

"The LGBT audience is the sweet spot. They have high levels of education and income and they're high entertainment consumers," says Kirk Iwanowski, senior vice president of marketing for the Sundance Channel, which mostly shows independent films. "We have actively pursued that audience since we launched." That's part of why Sundance just formed a partnership with gay.com, one of the most popular websites among gay men, and has made a commitment to creating original programming with gay-themes.

The more gay images on television, the merrier, Romine says.

"The existence of BET doesn't mean there shouldn't be African-American programming on other networks," he adds.

pinkpurlgrrl said...

Does anybody know if any of these channels are available in Western Washington? I would love to support them.

LNewsEditor said...

Hey PinkPurl!

To find out if any of these channels is available in your area, contact your local cable company.

As for the networks themselves, here are some links so you can check their programming:

http://www.logoonline.com/

http://www.heretv.com/ (Note: it's pay-per-view)

http://www.qtelevision.com/site/

pinkpurlgrrl said...

Thank you blogmistress!

LNewsEditor said...

I live to serve, dahlink!

Just wondering how they're going to mix programming with such a potentially diverse audience. A 20-something lesbian's probably not going to watch a show that appeals mostly to a 50-something gay male, ya know?

"Coming up after Xena: Another Bette Davis flick..."