Cable Exec Has Work Cut Out

In this file photo, released by MTV, Brian Graden, president of MTV Programming, addresses a meeting of the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles July 23, 2004. Graden is the executive behind MTV's new Logo network for gays and lesbians.
The man who's molding Logo, the new network for gays and lesbians, grew up in rural Illinois, attended Oral Roberts University and counted that cheesy keyboard solo on "Freeze Frame" as his big moment during gigs with his college band the Ozones.

At first glance, Brian Graden hardly seems too hip for the room.

But the 42-year-old Graden is one of television's busiest and most imaginative executives, already responsible for the programming on MTV, VH1 and CMT — and now Logo, which debuts Thursday.

Long in the works, Logo will initially be seen in about 10 million homes with digital cable. Unlike Here and Q, two pay-per-view, gay-oriented networks already operating, Logo will be available in homes that do not specifically order it.

Films such as "Kissing Jessica Stein" and "Philadelphia" and documentaries will fill many of Logo's first hours. The network also has a scripted series, "Noah's Arc," about a homosexual black man and his friends in Los Angeles, a reality series about opening a gay bar and the stand-up comedy series "Wisecrack."

A gay man himself, Graden had hoped to help out with Logo even before he was appointed its president.

Graden's job requires a comfort with Wall Street and Hollywood, two sides of his personality presaged by his educational choices. He went to Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla., with fellow band members in an ill-fated attempt to keep the Ozones alive, then later earned an MBA from Harvard University.

Seeking an internship one summer, he wore his best suit to an interview with colorful TV executive Stephen Chao. Chao said he'd hire Graden as long as he never wore a tie again, and spent the interview quizzing the young man on what he watched on TV, the music he listened to, the movies he saw.

"I came to understand that that's the essence of what you're hiring, the essence of what matters," he said.

Graden now appoints teams at MTV Networks that are immersed in the lifestyles of the audiences they are trying to reach.

The launchpad for his career came when he befriended writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, helping them to develop "South Park."