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Comcast adds Logo

Biggest cable system expands new net's reach

NEW YORK — Logo, the Viacom cable network targeted to gays and lesbians, has landed a carriage deal with Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., giving the network one of the best new-channel launches in years.

Over the next three months, Comcast will add Logo to its digital-plus package, which could funnel another 5 million subscribers to Logo’s existing 13 million. Logo made its on-air debut Thursday.

Parties declined to discuss deal points, but Logo typically charges a monthly subscriber fee of 3¢ during the first year, which rises to 8¢ by year five of the contract. Logo hopes to harvest a bigger percentage of its annual revenues from advertiser fees.

One new aspect of the Comcast deal is a video-on-demand supplement that will feature 10 hours a month of Logo programming, which the cabler will offer free to its digital subscribers who pay the retail price for digital-plus.

Matt Bond, exec VP of programming, stressed the “underserved audience” of gays and lesbians who, until Logo, have not had a 24/7 basic-cable network devoted exclusively to programming aimed at their community. The non-ad-supported gay net Here! is a pay service that costs subscribers an extra monthly fee.

The on-demand extra is important to Comcast because the company is trying to build the most extensive menu of free VOD programming in the cable universe, led by movies.

Last week, Comcast bought the right to add 250 VOD movies a month programmed by John Malone’s Encore network. Also last week, Comcast hired Diane Robina as prexy of the newly created Comcast/Sony Networks. She’ll set up a batch of cable nets with programming drawn from the 7,500-title theatrical-movie library and the humongous inventory of TV series owned by the merged Sony and MGM.

One reason Logo is off to such a promising start is that its programming will be mainstream, not boundary-pushing, at least for the foreseeable future. Movies ranging from “Moulin Rouge” and “The Birdcage” to “Six Degrees of Separation” and “Mommie Dearest” will be the most recognizable programming, but Logo also will schedule documentaries, reality shows, sitcoms and specials like “The 16th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.”

By taking a relatively conservative approach, Logo has managed to get DirecTV to provide carriage, as well as large cable operators including Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision.

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