Streaming Sexuality: The Rise of LGBT Content Channels

Hulu, like Netflix, has introduced a LGBT content genre. Is media segregation of lesbian material the way to go?


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Netflix does it. Hulu, as of last month, does it. When you browse the aisles of a (pretty much defunct) video store, they do it, too. Everywhere you look, lesbian media is being cataloged, filed and filtered into a “Gay and Lesbian” content channel, and if you stream as many shows as I do, the content will eventually show up in your “genres we think you might like” queue. If a film or TV show has a lesbian story arc, it lands in the gay umbrella genre where it will probably, unfortunately, be viewed only by members of the lesbian community. Meanwhile, wonderful programs with one or two lesbian characters are placed in traditional, original and - let's face it - actual genres, like action, horror or comedy. The rainbow shout-out and wide selection is a nice touch, but is media segregation of LGBT material the way to go?

Here is a test. Let's say that you're sitting at home and you decide to stream an action movie on Netflix. Simple enough. You filter your search for “Action & Adventure,” which gives you 12 sub-genres to choose from (Westerns, Deadly Disasters, Comic Book Movies and Martial Arts, to name a few). Let's say that you're a fan of the recent wave of comic book adaptations, so you choose this genre and browse for twenty minutes until you find something that is absolutely perfect. Perfect, that is, for you—a person who is gay who happens to love a good comic book adaptation movie. Conversely, you can browse the “Gay and Lesbian” content channel because you are gay, and watch a movie about people who are also gay. What do you do? (Ever notice that there are no lesbian action movies? Or lesbian horror movies? Movie producers, if you are reading – please make these).

Your decision in the scenario above, according to a recent study co-sponsored by Logo (the LGBT content cable network) depends on your gay consumer personality type (yes, we have these!). Logo's landmark study, known as the LGBTid Study, was released last month and ranks consumers into several subgroups based on their gay personality and other demographic markers, such as location, age, sex, nationality and relationship status. Surprisingly, 67% of survey takers fell into four distinct groups (the examples below are my own, but based on the study's technical definitions):

1. Out and Proud: i.e. “I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it.”

2. Beyond the Alphabet: i.e. “Don't label me! Yes, I'm gay, but why does everyone have to put a label on me?” (Interestingly, this group skewed very young).

3. Initiators: i.e. “Meet me at the protest at 6.” (Both young and old fell into this category)

4. Just Who I Am: “Yes, I'm gay, but it's not everything I am.” (People in this category showed a wide range of support/social interaction from members outside the LGBT community).

Is Logo - and other LGBT media content providers - studying this new data to create programming for all colors of the LGBT consumer spectrum (the rainbow, if you will)? And are these consumer groups really that cut and dry? (Personally, I hit all four by noon). If LGBT content was specifically created for members of the #2 or #4 group, what would that content look like? I can't help imagining that it would look like everything else on Netflix, but with LGBT characters.

Now that is something I'd like to see.

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