When Schramm was inducted into the Cable TV Pioneers in 2015 in recognition of his decades of service to the industry, he thanked his life partner Steve for his support.
“At the dessert reception following the ceremony, a few people approached me to say that after all these years of knowing me, they had not realized I was gay. I laugh about it, but I am also happy to realize that they saw me for my contributions to business, or perhaps my collaboration with coworkers, but did not judge me for who I chose to love,” says Schramm, whose cable career started in 1980 at Cablevision. “I admire them, and it makes me smile to tell this story.”
For more than 20 years, he’s run Schramm Marketing, a marketing, events and consulting firm with a roster of clients ranging from ESPN to the Girl Scouts. His success is making everything about his clients—not himself. But he has used his passion, expertise and personal identity as a member of the LBGTQ+ community to bring new perspectives to sports, diversity marketing and special events.
Recently, he took his years of experience producing conferences for the television industry to a new level with the Pride TV Summit. His firm has a track record of producing programs focused on ethnic markets using a formula that focuses on a demographically specific audience segment and/or features storylines and roles that challenge stereotypical images. “However, this is the first time we sought to reach out to such a diverse group as the LGBTQIA community of persons who identify by either their sexual orientation, their gender or both (or in some cases, neither),” explains Schramm.
The Pride TV Summit was an idea he had been discussing with TV industry brands for five years, and in June, the free, virtual conference finally came to fruition. Produced for industry publications Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, the event focused on the business of TV programming featuring LGBTQ+ topics, storylines, characters or performers and included the Pride TV Awards for Leadership and Courage. His hope is that attendees walked away with greater respect for individuals who identify by one or more communities within the LGBTQ+ description, while also understanding that serving these audience segments can be profitable for business. “LGBTQIA storylines and characters speak to all audience segments, and advertisers can enjoy little if any pushback from most consumers when sponsoring programs with LGBTQ+ roles or storylines,” he says, adding that one of the conference takeaways is that a gay character doesn’t have to be disenfranchised or only be the sidekick.
At the same time, Schramm knows there is still work to do. “Despite all the ‘progress,’ there is still discrimination,” he says. “The industry’s own writers, showrunners and content execs are to be recognized for their own individual courage and leadership whenever they introduce the public at large to series with LGBT+ storylines, and/or LGBT+ characters.”
Speaking of progress, Schramm lauds Comcast, AT&T and many others for hosting LGBTQ+ forums and employee organizations. “This would have been unheard of in the 1980s. When I first came out, I worked at a division of Cablevision called Rainbow Programming (now AMC Networks). I felt comfortable and accepted there although it was still a very closeted time in the cable industry,” he recalls. “Curiously, it was the outbreak of HIV infections and the scourge of AIDS that placed a spotlight on the LGBT community within the cable TV business. At that time, cable demonstrated its leadership among all other business segments in this country, by its quick response to the AIDS crisis [through] the formation of Cable Positive.”
Founded in 1992, Cable Positive organized cable resources in the fight against AIDS until it ceased operations in 2009.
“In my opinion, television—and cable in particular—has done more to demonstrate leadership and courage in shifting the conversation about acceptance of LGBT+ individuals than any other business segment or organization,” Schramm says. “The cable TV industry has a lot to be proud of.”