Online Programmers Setting LGBT Pace

The cable industry once again received strong grades for its LGBT-inclusive programming in the latest GLAAD “Where We Are on TV” report. Yet cable was somewhat overshadowed by its fast-rising over-the-top video competitors.

The GLAAD report, which looked at primetime programming from June 2013 to this May, said that primetime cable shows featured 64 regular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters — up from 42 last season — compared to their broadcast brethren, with 32 LGBT characters.

ABC Family, HBO and MTV earned “excellent” grades for their LGBT-inclusive programming, according to GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index. HBO had the most LGBT characters, with a total of 15 regular or recurring roles. Most of those images came from its drama series Looking, which offered the most “out” characters of any scripted series on television. ABC Family and Showtime followed with 13 characters each.

Other cable series that introduced LGBT characters this summer or will do so later this year include Please Like Me (Pivot), Matador (El Rey Network), Broad City (Comedy Central), Witches of East End (Lifetime) and Hit the Floor (VH1).

GLAAD praised cable but also gave major props to its online video-streaming competitors. Netflix dramedy Orange Is the New Black contained more LGBT characters than nearly any broadcast or cable series currently on air, according to GLAAD.

Netflix’s Hemlock Grove and Lilyhammer also featured lesbian, gay and bisexual characters, and the OTT service plans a new series, Grace and Frankie, to feature two bickering wives whose husbands fall in love with one another.

Hulu original series East Los High and Amazon Prime shows Alpha House and Transparent feature several LGBT characters.

“As [television networks] move forward with new programs and storylines, networks must also keep an eye towards diversity and strive to include significant transgender content comparable to those efforts being made by their online competitors, such as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s Transparent,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.