MTVN’s Logo a Go in February

MTV Networks’ long-awaited gay network will finally become a reality in February.

Pooling programming contributions from a number of its services, the network will bow Feb. 17 under the name Logo.

The ad-supported service will target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, estimated at some 15 million in the United States. These groups are estimated to have a combined buying power totaling $485 billion annually, according to network officials.

MTVN chairman and CEO Tom Freston said on a conference call announcing the service that it would be aimed primarily at digital tiers.

MTVN president of affiliate sales Nicole Browning added that the service would bow in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Francisco via distribution deals that already have been consummated with Time Warner Cable and overbuilder RCN Corp.

Browning noted that discussions have taken place with many operators, including the nation’s largest MSO, Comcast Corp., and that more launch announcements would be made in the weeks ahead.

Matt Farber, who has been serving as a consultant to the project, said on the call that a subscription-video-on-demand application could be home to edgier fare, possibly including randy Showtime series Queer as Folk and The L Word.

Freston said the linear service would adhere to broadcast standards.

Coming out of the gate, Logo’s programming schedule will begin with 25% original productions and 75% acquired fare -- a mix that will bend toward the former 18 months after launch, according to MTV Networks Group president Judy McGrath.

She said more than 40 shows and specials are already in development, with one-half in the pilot stage. The network has already acquired the rights to more than 100 films and specials from such studios as Sony Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., Warner Bros., Lion’s Gate, Paramount Pictures and Strand Releasing, among others.

McGrath said Logo would work with Comedy Central, TV Land, MTV: Music Television, VH1, Showtime and CBS News to develop programming. Genres will include original news, telepics, documentaries, reality series and talk shows.

McGrath talked up such concepts as a TV Land special on gays on television and VH1’s Gay 100, exploring where those lifestyles meets pop culture. Officials said more detailed programming information would be presented at the summer press tour of the Television Critics Association in July.

Talk about a Viacom gay channel began to surface early in 2002, following the success of Showtime dramatic series Queer as Folk.

Speculation initially centered on the service bowing as a mini-pay channel, carrying a monthly retail price tag of between $5-$6 and combining program contributions from the premium network, as well as MTV.