3 min

PrideVision still losing money

November could bring more cuts

Credit: Xtra files

Despite having its budget cut in half, PrideVision TV, the world’s first 24-hour queer channel, continues to lose money for its owner Headline Media Group (HMG).

But that hasn’t stopped management from revisiting plans to expand the channel into the US. Or sell the operation. Or make further cuts.

“People in the States are hungry for this network,” says Wendy Donnan, director of programming and operations. “They really want this network and they don’t have it yet. There is a real push to have their own cable network because everyone else does. There is a channel for everything so why not have one for the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bi and trans] community?”

In a financial statement this month, HMG revealed the digital station had 22,500 subscribers as of May 31. That’s up from the 19,000 it had a year earlier, but is still a far cry from the 60,000 subscribers HMG had been striving for. That means PrideVision generates about $1.2-million annually in subscriber revenue. Though the financial statement did not give ad revenue, it’s unlikely it brings total earnings even half way to the operating costs of $4.9-million. That’s after massive cuts to the$9.9-million budget PrideVisionthe previous year.

HMG senior vice-president David Wetherald says management is pleased with how the station has been operating since the big cuts last December. The station is still losing money, but it is doing so at “one tenth of the previous rate.”

But those budget cuts could make it even harder for PrideVision to attract more subscribers at between $6 and $8 a month. One of the biggest criticisms levelled against the station is that there are too many repeats. For example, episodes of the defunct current affairs show, Shout, which were originally broadcast in 2001, are still running now. Donnan says that she and her staff are bringing more shows to the station.

“We are basically doing more with less because the reality is we’re doing more original programming in-house than we ever did before,” she says. “We did one show before – Shout – and now we are doing three. Maybe four for the fall.”

Donnan says she is getting good responses from viewers about her brainchild, Read Out, where host Mathieu Chantelois talks to queer authors about their books. There’s also the Crystal Lite Show, a variety and talk show shot live in the bar Zipperz, and an upcoming “funniest home videos” show called Queer Life.

Last week the station started broadcasting episodes of a US-based live Internet show called Featuring Steve “The Bod” Elliot and Gary “The Mouth” Green, Donnan says it’s a gay cross between Howard Stern and Laugh-In.

Tight margins in the Canadian market has left the station salivating for the richer pastures of the US. But last month US media giant Viacom put its proposed queer channel, Outlet, on hold indefinitely because the economy is bad.

PrideVision doesn’t think Viacom’s decision shows bodes poorly for queer programming there. HMG is looking for financial support from investors and also has the feelers out to find a strategic partner south of the border, says Wetherald.

“We continue to believe the US is viable and in fact that [Viacom’s announcement] keeps the market open for somebody else to come in,” he says.

PrideVision has been running in part on a $500,000 private placement from HMG’s controlling shareholder, Levfam Finance Inc. Though the company originally stated it would need a new revenue to run Pride-Vision beyond Aug 31, it has come up with stop-gap funding that will last until Nov 30. If funding doesn’t come through, there could be further budget cuts. And HMG, which also owns the sports channel The Score, which has more than 5-million subscribers, continues to talk about selling the station.

“From any corporation’s perspective, anything is for sale at the right price,” Wetherald says. “But from our perspective to create value and to recognize the long-term vision for PrideVision is to solidify it here and to find a strategic partner.”