How CMT Transformed Nashville Into Its Most Successful (And Progressive) Show

In 2015, Rolling Stone said ABC’s Nashville “reflects real-life struggles in the entertainment industry.”  This was in reference to the country soap’s gay characters, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Kevin Bix (Kyle Dean Massey).

At the time, Bix was a new addition to the Nashville family, and as an openly gay singer, struggled to have a successful career. Lexington was hiding his sexual identity from his fans, while flourishing professionally.

Flash forward to 2017. Nashville moved to CMT for its fifth season earlier this year. Now, Lexington is out and proud, realizing he could still embrace his role as a country music star as an LGBT individual after being forced out of the closet in season three by a rival musician.

Since joining the CMT roster, Nashville has become the network’s highest-rated and most-watched series ever. Even after losing a beloved main character (Rayna James) in a tragic car crash, the show has remained wildly successful.

At least part of this success can be attributed to CMT’s inventive and progressive storyline and character development. Take Lexington’s evolution, for example. Entertainment blog Cinemablend commended CMT on “sprucing up” his character, giving him more than just romantic story arcs and LGBT-drama to fill his screen time.

Even the network’s portrayal of his sexuality has adopted more realistic angles. Even though Music City is full of heartbreak and drama, being a gay country singer doesn’t have to be riddled with conflict. In a recent episode that aired during Pride Month, Lexington got the opportunity to be a brand spokesperson for Budweiser.

Watch the fictional spot:

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The Commerce of Inclusion: Take a Look at Logo’s List of 25 Trailblazing Companies for the LGBT Community

What do Target, Google, Nike, AT&T, and American Express have in common? They’re among the 25 most LGBT-friendly companies in the U.S., according to Logo, Viacom’s network inspired by the LGBT community.

Logo unveiled its second annual Trailblazing Companies list on the eve of Pride Month in June to compile the catalog of inclusive and supportive businesses.

So, how can Logo measure the economics of equality? With the help of Witeck Communications, a marketing firm focused on LGBT consumer habits, Logo scored companies based on seven criteria:

Courtesy of Logo/Witeck Communications.

Aside from promoting equality and inclusivity, why should companies care about promoting LGBT initiatives? Well, there’s this: the LGBT community has an estimated buying power of $971 billion, according to Witeck Communications President Bob Witeck.

“The footprint that gay people have today in the economy is much, much more present, much more visible,” Witeck said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Also, companies are responding not just to LGBT purchasing power, they are responding to others who are aligned and sympathetic.”

Take a look at the top 25 companies:

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Make America Fierce Again: What a Ratings Surge Tells Us About RuPaul’s Drag Race

After strutting from Logo to VH1, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s ninth season premiered Friday, March 24. Critics say it’s as fabulous as ever—with a fierce cast delivering a whole new level of charisma, nerve, and talent. Viewers agree. The season premiere drew nearly 1 million viewers, more than any other episode of Drag Race. It was the most-watched show on cable TV that night, besides the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. The divas dominated Twitter, as well, trending worldwide and garnering the highest Twitter volume in Drag Race history.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: (L-R) Eureka O'hara, Peppermint, Kimora Blac, Alexis Michelle; Trinity Taylor, Shea Coulee, Jaymes Mansfield, Nina Bo' Nina Brown, Aja, Valentina, Sasha Velour, Charlie Hides and Farrah Moan attend "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 9 Premiere Party & Meet The Queens Event at PlayStation Theater on March 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

The cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race attend Season 9 Premiere Party & Meet The Queens Event at PlayStation Theater on March 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

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Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, COO Tom Dooley Look Ahead

by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

In company-wide memo following the announcement of Viacom’s year-end results, our CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Tom Dooley looked ahead with excitement about the creativity and innovation that are happening around the company.

“There’s so much that we’re excited about in the year to come,” they write. According to the note, they’re particularly excited for more storytelling. More connection. More inclusion. More growth. “Creativity is the connective tissue of it all.” You can read the particulars reprinted from the note, below.

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SEE YA, DOMA! Reactions From Across Viacom

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

The Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was met with cheers and tears, hugs and high fives across Viacom.

When the ruling came down, several members of Emerge, Viacom’s LGBT employee affinity group, were in a breakfast meeting with Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s President and CEO.  Dauman regularly holds breakfast meetings with employee groups to discuss the company issues of the day, particularly in regards to diversity and inclusion.

We also caught up with several of those members of Emerge afterward for their reactions to today’s historic decision:

BrandonWhen we all heard the news this morning, the whole conference room cheered.  I know that we have a long way to go toward full marriage equality, but this was a very important milestone, and I am so proud of the community and those who have fought so hard.

– Brandon Grabowski, Senior Manager, Shopper Insights, Nickelodeon Research and co-chair of Emerge

 

 

michaelarmstrong

Today is a fantastic day for the LGBT community.  So very happy for all my friends whose marriages will now be recognized on the federal level. This is a huge step in the right direction. I am also very proud that I am able to share this moment at work and have the ability to be so open about it since Viacom is such an inclusive work environment. Amazing day. 

– Michael Armstrong, Associate Producer, Ad Sales Production, Viacom Music Group, and co-chair of Emerge, pictured at left with Edie Windsor, the plaintiff who challenged the federal law

 

 

 

 

SHANNON_TRAVISThis is a truly exciting time for the LGBT community because now our marriages will be recognized nationally pushing us closer to equal rights!

– Shannon Travis, Manager, Content Distribution and Marketing

 

 

 

 

RickandMattYesterday my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  On our first anniversary, the NY state legislature voted to pass marriage equality.  This year, although a day after our anniversary, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.  I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this time in history, and the dates of these significant landmarks in gay history will always share a special meaning to me and my husband.

 

-Matthew Vidal, Senior Counsel, Business and Legal Affairs, Nickelodeon Digital Media, pictured above (left) with his husband Rick

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Analysis on SCOTUS DOMA Ruling from Viacom Legal

by Daniel Mandil, Viacom Legal

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an unconstitutional deprivation of the equal liberty of all persons guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment is welcome and gratifying for our company – it’s the result we hoped for and worked to achieve. We’re very pleased that Viacom could play a role in ensuring that all Americans who marry have equal rights under the law.  Our core values embrace a deep respect for diversity and inclusion, which includes the position we took in Windsor: if state law permits same-sex marriages, the federal government has no business impeding the rights and entitlements of such couples.  As Viacom and 277 other employers said in the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court:

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