MTV Gay and Lesbian Network Will Pack an Online Punch

When MTV Networks launches its new LOGO television network for the influential and affluent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) market next year, the entity’s Web component will be an important part of the strategy.

“We want to make sure we do this well,” said MTV Group President Nancy McGrath of the Web site, during a press conference announcing the new network. “We feel the burden to come up with something unique and great.”

McGrath said the new network’s Web presence will be a part of Viacom’s strategy for LOGO from the outset, and considerable resources will go into it.

“We are developing it in tandem with the core channel,” she said. “You can expect that at some point in the next few months, there will be an online component. This is the perfect audience for a very robust site.”

While the company did not return calls seeking further comment, MTV Networks has traditionally done online media very well. It’s conceivable LOGO’s Web site could be a major contender among online GLBT media players.

“MTV is smart. They’re strong online, but they didn’t grotesquely over-invest early on,” said Jupiter Research analyst David Card, who added there are many factors that will contribute to the positioning of LOGO’s online strategy. “Would they do a personals section for instance, or would they be worried that it’d be tricky to integrate with their programming?”

Whether or not LOGO’s Internet presence could compete with online GLBT media powerhouse PlanetOut Partners is another question. PlanetOut Partners recently filed for its initial public offering.

“PlanetOut is a pretty successful site,” said Card. “I won’t say it owns the territory, but it’s a tough competitor. The Internet favors the network effect… the winner-take-all environment. Of course, this is a company that could have a pretty strong cross-media play.”

MTV’s new network, scheduled to launch in February 2005, has long been in the works. The company is eagerly pursuing advertisers and creative assets. It said 20 original programs are already in the pilot phase.

“We know this is either the worst-kept secret in television or the longest-awaited promise to a very loyal and important television audience,” said MTV Networks Chairman and CEO Tom Freston.

Some market researchers estimate the gay and lesbian population at 15 million adults, with projected spending power of $485 billion. Many large advertisers have had gay marketing strategies for years, a trend that appears likely to continue as tolerance of gay lifestyles increases.

Why MTV chose this moment to announce the rollout is an open question. Freston said the decision had nothing to do with news headlines generated in recent weeks on the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

“This is not part of a grand strategy to ride down the aisle with all these happy couples. This network is not about politics,” he said.

A rudimentary site is already up at www.logo-tv.com.

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