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Evolution, revolution, and the construction of a gay cable channel
Unformatted Document Text:  4 with boosting Showtime’s subscription rates and, anecdotally at least, is its most popular series. Since one of the challenges to a successful gay cable channel is getting cable distributors in enough markets to agree to carry the channel, audience response to Queer as Folk suggests that gay content is far from a liability and is potentially very profitable. Even with these shifts since 1994, it would be a mistake to assume that gay cable does not still face some significant challenges. Some of these are familiar from earlier attempts to represent GLBTs in mainstream and gay media; others are specific to gay cable. Producers must be confident that they can garner an audience large enough to warrant considerable investment in technology, distribution, marketing, personnel, and producing new shows. Executives also need to be confident that GLBT audiences will subscribe even if they also watch some gay-themed shows on non-subscription channels, such as Will and Grace and The Real World, or on premium channels that they already pay extra for, like Six Feet Under. In order to get a large enough audience, the channel’s executives must choose content varied enough to satisfy a diverse audience, since GLBT identification is only one element of a population otherwise very fragmented by age, race, gender, region, and so on. The channel may also face distribution problems if cable distributors in rural areas believe the GLBT audience to be too small to warrant the dedication of a channel to the service. This may lead to a situation in which those who may need gay cable most, that is, rural-dwelling gays who seek a sense of GLBT community over geographical distances, may be less likely to get it because of their very isolation. Gay cable executives also face challenges over content. They need to invest large sums in order to develop and sustain innovative original programming, to complement the anticipated fare of independent GLBT feature films, documentaries, and reruns of shows popular with GLBT audiences. Yet both with syndicated and new content, the channel runs the risk of

Authors: Sender, Katherine.
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with boosting Showtime’s subscription rates and, anecdotally at least, is its most popular series.
Since one of the challenges to a successful gay cable channel is getting cable distributors in
enough markets to agree to carry the channel, audience response to Queer as Folk suggests that
gay content is far from a liability and is potentially very profitable.
Even with these shifts since 1994, it would be a mistake to assume that gay cable does
not still face some significant challenges. Some of these are familiar from earlier attempts to
represent GLBTs in mainstream and gay media; others are specific to gay cable. Producers must
be confident that they can garner an audience large enough to warrant considerable investment in
technology, distribution, marketing, personnel, and producing new shows. Executives also need
to be confident that GLBT audiences will subscribe even if they also watch some gay-themed
shows on non-subscription channels, such as Will and Grace and The Real World, or on
premium channels that they already pay extra for, like Six Feet Under. In order to get a large
enough audience, the channel’s executives must choose content varied enough to satisfy a
diverse audience, since GLBT identification is only one element of a population otherwise very
fragmented by age, race, gender, region, and so on. The channel may also face distribution
problems if cable distributors in rural areas believe the GLBT audience to be too small to warrant
the dedication of a channel to the service. This may lead to a situation in which those who may
need gay cable most, that is, rural-dwelling gays who seek a sense of GLBT community over
geographical distances, may be less likely to get it because of their very isolation.
Gay cable executives also face challenges over content. They need to invest large sums in
order to develop and sustain innovative original programming, to complement the anticipated
fare of independent GLBT feature films, documentaries, and reruns of shows popular with
GLBT audiences. Yet both with syndicated and new content, the channel runs the risk of


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