Looking ‘Beyond Logo’ with Lisa Sherman

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

It’s been nearly seven years since Logo debuted as the first 24-hour network for the LGBT community and, in that time, quite a bit has changed.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Prop 8 was passed and then overturned in California. Well-known actors and athletes alike have come out, and LGBT characters are portrayed more and more in mainstream television and films.  Logo is now available in nearly 50 million households nationwide.

The LGBT experience in America has evolved.  So how has Logo evolved along with it?  We asked Lisa Sherman, executive vice president of Logo, how Logo is expanding its programming palette to reflect the times.

Mark Jafar: Looking back, are you surprised at how much LGBT and mainstream culture have merged since Logo’s launch?  Are we further along than you would’ve predicted in 2005?

Lisa Sherman: Yes, it does seem that these welcome shifts in culture have sped up dramatically since Logo’s launch in 2005.  Years of hard work were already yielding significant progress in breaking down barriers on all fronts.  But what’s happened in the last seven years has been beyond my expectations.

I’m thrilled that Logo’s growth has kept pace with the speed of these changes.  Since launch, we’ve grown from 13 million households to over 50 million.  We started with three advertisers, now we have over 300 advertising partners.  I like to think that Logo has been one of the many catalysts fueling gay and lesbian integration into mainstream culture.  We’re proud to be a part of the story, and we’ll continue to show their integrated lives and all of their interests on our air and our websites.

MJ: Speaking of this culture shift, you’ve said that, “we’re past the tipping point.”  What do you think that “tipping point” was?  Is there any event or milestone that sticks out in your mind?

LS: I would say it’s not about one particular event, but the speed with which our society’s attitudes are evolving on LGBT issues overall.  Recent months have seen numerous milestones achieved on the integration front.  Same-sex marriage equality is legal in New York — and now Washington and Maryland — propelling a national push for equality across the country.  After 18 years, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, allowing gays and lesbians to finally serve our country honestly and openly.  Modern Family has helped redefine the contemporary American family.  Jane Lynch, Adam Lambert, Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, Ricky Martin and Ellen Degeneres are all parts of the national conversation not just for being out, but for all they’ve accomplished.  On the business front, JC Penny recently stood behind their decision to use Ellen as their spokesperson.  And most importantly, people of all walks have spoken out against bullying of young people, serving notice that this practice will no longer be ignored or tolerated.

MJ: How are you evolving Logo?

LS: Our goal at Logo has always been to reflect our viewers’ true lives.  Today, the welcome shifts in current culture have made it less about WHAT they are and more about WHO they are and the lives they’re creating.

Our research and viewer feedback confirms that our audience leads integrated lives that go beyond labels and expectations.  And that they want more from Logo.  So, we’re renewing our commitment to our audience by developing shows that reflect their full lives and multiple interests.  We’re excited about the future!

MJ: You’ve got a healthy slate of new original programming in production and development.  Was it challenging to find projects that align with your new vision for the brand?

LS: Not at all!  Our viewers are  “pop culture explorers” who see themselves as pioneers who base their identities on what really moves them creatively — everything from music, film, fashion and travel to the homes and neighborhoods we build and beyond. What they like ultimately impacts culture for everyone else.  And Logo programming will reflect their attitudes and passions.

MJ: With its broad appeal, RuPaul’s Drag Race in some ways anticipated this new direction for Logo.  Can you tell us about how you plan to build on and expand that franchise?

LS: Can I just start by saying how much we love RuPaul? Now in its fourth season (Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT), the franchise continues to break ratings and social media records for Logo. The fans of the show are like none we’ve ever seen – so passionate! This summer, viewers will see the return of RuPaul’s Drag U, and today we’re thrilled to announce All Stars: RuPaul’s Drag Race.  The new series is set to serve up a twist on the original RuPaul’s Drag Race as it pits “dragtestants” from previous seasons against each other in a wig-to-wig drag battle royale. A guaranteed fan pleaser, All Stars: RuPaul’s Drag Race is slated to premiere this fall. Fasten your seatbelts!

MJ: As you move forward “Beyond Logo,” what excites you most?

There are so many things to look forward to as Logo moves ahead during this time of tremendously positive cultural change.  Ultimately, I’m most thrilled about delivering programming that will continue to evolve with the interests and needs of our core gay audience, and engage an expanded viewer base of family, friends and supporters.

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  1. As a young gay man I am glad Logo is evolving with the community as our society becomes more accepting.

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