NEW YORK — A cable network often has to scramble during the days leading up to its debut.
Viacom’s Logo, an ad-supported channel targeted to gays and lesbians, is no different, having just clinched deals with two major distributors, DirecTV and Charter, within 24 hours of its premiere today.
The two carriage agreements will propel Logo to a customer base of about 13 million.
Despite the hectic, last-minute distrib deals, Logo is sailing smoothly into its launch on the cable dial, deliberately steering clear of loud, attention-getting promos and billboards.
“I just don’t see any giant backlash against Logo,” said Paul Colichman, co-founder and CEO of Here!, a three-year-old pay TV service that bills itself as “America’s first gay television network.”
Logo is not only forging contracts with mainstream cable ops Time Warner, Adelphia and Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision but signing up charter advertisers like Miller Lite, Motorola, Tylenol PM and Subaru.
Colichman said, “Viacom is doing it right by keeping the launch low-key and by buying accessible, lifestyle programming.”
He pointed out that even though it’s a sibling of Showtime, Logo has made no move to buy reruns of such successful gay-themed Showtime series as “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word,” which push the boundaries of content. Even edited versions of those raunchy series would have a difficult time getting advertisers to buy spots on them.
Viacom also is acutely aware that contentious issues like gay marriage have polarized the country, and exploiting such controversies might not be the best way to attract auds.
Logo will this year spend on programming, commissioned and purchased, about $16 million, a figure projected to rise to $20 million next year and $25 million in 2007. The network predicts that ad revs will come in at $900,000 this year, $8.1 million in 2006 and $16.5 million in 2007, according to Kagan Research.
Today, Logo will kick off with the premiere of “The Evolution Will Be Televised,” a 90-minute documentary about the effect on America of gay culture and politics over the years. Interviewees include Norman Lear, Judith Light, Paul Rudnick and ArmisteadMaupin.
Logo will run movies every Tuesday under the rubric Acting Out: The Guts to Play Gay, focusing on actors “who took major gay roles despite the risks to their careers.” The movies include “Torch Song Trilogy” (Matthew Broderick), “Heavenly Creatures” (Kate Winslet) and “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” (Glenn Close).
The network plans lots of standup comedy, beginning with two regularly scheduled series, “Take My Life Partner, Please” and “Wisecrack.”
“Global Getaway” is a weekly travel series, and “Real Momentum” is the umbrella title for a series of weekly documentaries, original and acquired.
One docu, “Tickled Pink,” will explore the gay subtext of characters in TV series such as “Bewitched,” “Beverly Hillbillies,” “Dynasty” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Co-producer is Logo’s TV Land sibling.
For late fall, Logo plans to schedule “Noah’s Arc,” a scripted dramedy series about a Los Angeles screenwriter and his three best friends, and an original reality series called “Open Bar,” which follows one man’s coming-out process as he works to open a West Hollywood gay bar.
Fairly tame shows like these, said Colichman, “are not likely to pull a massive curtain of doom and gloom over the country, except maybe among members of the far right.”
“If anything,” he added, “they’ll help to promote tolerance and respect for gays, the way shows like (‘Queer Eye’) and ‘Will & Grace’ do.”