Pay TV was first introduced to Australia in 1995, and within months there were predictions of dedicated queer TV channels being broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Eleven years later those predictions have finally come to fruition with the launch of two new TV channels, screening from the United States and Canada. Q Television Network (QTN) is broadcast directly from the USA, while Out TV is packaged from Canada.

The two new channels are part of the Curve TV package (available for $24.95 per month) on the newest player in the Australian subscription TV market, Selectv.

Selectv’s chief executive, Jim Blomfield, admits launching the two channels is something of a risk, but believes it is a move which is long overdue in the Australian TV market.

People have been speculating about this all along, and it should have been done a long time ago, Blomfield says. I openly admit that I don’t know enough about it [the queer TV audience], but we do know there is a huge market there and we should be addressing it.

Selectv does a whole group of niche pay-TV channels, like foreign language and small English channels, and we looked at the gaps in the market. That is how we came up with the idea of Curve TV.

Among the established North American hits of the Curve TV programming schedule are morning talk show Brunch, same sex couples’ weddings on I Now Pronounce You, variety and music with On Q Live, the cult-hit travel show Chris & John’s Road Trip, drag diva Crystal Lite’s own The Crystal Lite Show, and the search for the next hot male model with Coverguy.

At this stage, neither channel on Curve TV will screen any Australian content, but Blomfield believes it is only a matter of time before subscriptions numbers will provide the economic support for production of local shows. He estimates Curve TV will attract an audience of 10,000 subscribers within three years.

We view this as the beginning of a journey, Blomfield says. I hope it leads to more relevant and more specific input from Australia, but to begin with, these are readily produced channels which offer a range of content.

The question has always been, can you get enough content to sustain channels for the GLBT audience, and from the experience we have seen in the US and Canada, it is possible. What we are seeing on QTN is very good, and Out TV is a little edgier.

We have had good discussions with QTN in particular to understand the GLBT community in Australian and they see huge potential for local production. By the time of next year’s Mardi Gras, we would certainly expect to be a part of it.

For more information visit the Selectv website.

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