Viacom Puts Gay TV On Fast Track

Mon. March 29, 2004 12:00 AM by

New York City - It isn't often that media baron Sumner Redstone admits he was wrong, but in a conference call with analysts and investors, Redstone said Viacom should not have put the launch of a gay television network on hold.

Viacom, which owns CBS, MTV, Showtime, and a host of other cable stations plus billboard and print media companies was to have started the gay network two years ago.

Such a channel now could "be worth a billion dollars," Redstone said, and would have cost only $30 million to launch. Details of the conference call and Redstone's mea culpa were published Monday by the Wall Street Journal.

He said he won't make the same mistake twice. Redstone said he has ordered Tom Freston, chairman and chief executive of Viacom's MTV Networks, to come up with a business plan for the station and get it on the air as quickly as possible.

Viacom, through Showtime, owns Queer as Folk and The L Word.

The gay audience is an attractive target for advertisers. Gay based ad agency Prime Access pegs the LGBT market to have nearly $550 billion a year in spending power. The average U.S. income is about 8% higher in gay households than straight ones, according to Forrester Research Inc.

But industry analysts suggest getting the gay station to market won't be easy and will depend on Viacom's massive clout to force satellite operators and cable companies to carry it.

Canada's PrideVision, the world's first LGBT cable company has yet to show a profit.

©® 2004

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