Published on February 11th, 2013 | by Mark Gibson, Editor/Community Manager
Editorial | G4’s Transformation to the Esquire Network is Destined for Failure
Back in December news leaked that the G4TV would become the Esquire Channel. This news became more apparent as NBC Universal canceled G4’s only gaming programs, “X-Play” and “Attack of the Show.” On April 22 we will all officially say goodbye to G4TV and wave hello to the “upscale men’s channel,”Esquire Network.
A Slow and Painful Death
If you happened to catch the airing of the final episodes of “X-Play” and “AOTS,” it was somewhat of a surreal moment. These shows have been the staple of bringing gaming to cable and into the mainstream, even when the channel was TechTV and ZDTV before that. Some may argue that G4 began its downfall when it began to air “Cops” on a regular basis, while other die-hard TechTV fans will argue the channel was doomed from the start. However, let’s not forget the golden age of G4 when regular programming was at an all-time high. What became of shows like “Web Soup” and “G4’s Proving Ground”? Let’s also not forget G4’s first ever television coverage of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The station brought us exclusive coverage and interviews from Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the San Diego Comic-Con.
As of right now, NBC Universal has no gaming programming in the works for Esquire Network. You may be wondering why this change is being made. Well, the good people at NBC made it quite clear:
“Realistically, guys who are into gaming are not necessarily watching television,” said Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, in an interview with the New York Times. “ If this was going to come under my portfolio, I’m a little brand crazy, so I said, let’s create a real brand, define a space, understand who we are programming for.”
Are we missing something here? G4TV had defined, marketed and branded itself towards the gaming community. If, for some reason, NBC didn’t “understand” who it was programming for, isn’t that the fault of market research, or lack thereof?
The sentence in that statement that really gets me is: “Realistically, guys who are into gaming are not necessarily watching television.”
What gamer doesn’t watch television? If G4 was losing viewership, it was a fault of its own. Playing shows like “Cops” and” Cheaters” 24/7 will not gain popularity.
What Can We Expect From Esquire Network?
In a press release about the channel, NBC Universal stated:
“Esquire Network will expand on G4’s foundation of games, gear and gadgets to reflect the broad range of interests, passions and aspirations that define men today. Appealing to men’s intelligence as well as their sense of adventure, Esquire Network’s programming will capture the classic voice, impeccable style and unmistakable wit that have come to define Esquire, the original men’s magazine and premier authority on contemporary man. Diverse program categories and genres will feature not only gaming and technology, but also entertainment, food, fashion, women, humor, travel, competition, danger and more.”
As of right now, there are two original shows in the works: “The Getaway” and “Knife Fight.” Sounds cool, right? Well, let’s just see what these titles are about:
- The Getaway – Produced by Anthony Bourdain, the show will essentially be a celebrity travel show. If you are familiar with the long running and recently canceled “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, this show will be a play-off of that program.
- Knife Fight – A show about underground cooking competitions where talented chefs battle head-to-head in front of a “fight club” style rowdy crowd of celebrities, critics, and die-hard foodies. The show is being produced by Drew Barrymore. Because when I think culinary, I think Drew Barrymore…
These two shows are setting the stage for what Esquire Network will be. According to NBC, it wanted to create a channel that is for the “upscale trendy,” or “metro-sexual,” male. However, in reality, “Knife Fight” sounds like a hipster show for trendy chefs, while “The Getaway” is just a “look-at-these-places-you-will-never-afford-to-travel-to” kind of program.
The only show to live on with the change is “American Ninja Warrior.” How this show fits into the “upscale male” mentality is beyond me. When I think upscale, I don’t think of feats of strength competitions. Esquire Network will also be rebroadcasting episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “Party Down.” This is quite a random group of shows to thrown together. It makes me question what demographic they are actually aiming towards. Is NBC suggesting these shows are male oriented?
Why The New Channel May Fail
When looking at the programming thus far, I have one question, “Why should these programs appeal to me as man?” I like to travel, I love to cook and I enjoy a good comedy. What about these shows makes it male oriented? The idea of having a “channel for men” started with Spike TV. It’s a good idea but, in reality, it doesn’t quite work. It’s a classic case of, “We’ll show you what men want to see!” No. Just stop. I don’t need a channel just for me.
Marketing to the gaming community makes more sense. You are aiming at a fast-growing community. It’s also easy to define a show for gamers as opposed to a show for men. Unless you plan to air marathons of “The Man Show,” you are not marketing to males.
Spike TV now stands alone as the only channel to have “gaming” programming. It made a presence at E3 2012 and we can expect it to make an even bigger one at E3 this year. NBC Universal has now managed to drive away the very people that made G4 survive for so long.
Sure, there will be new fans that enjoy the Esquire Channel. But there is one thing I can bet you will never hear someone say, “Hey, did you check out that show on Esquire the other night? It was awesome!” No. No, it wasn’t.
In April we are not only bidding adieu to a gaming channel, we are closing the door on an era. G4TV has brought the gaming community into the mainstream. Maybe G4 ran its course, but the alternative is not looking that appealing. I give the Esquire Network a year before viewership is lower than its predecessor. By April of 2014, I can foresee NBC Universal announcing some gaming programming, if not a new channel name.
Sure, my opinion may seem biased, and I am not by any means a know-it-all on high-end men’s culture. I’m a gamer and a fan of good television. I do enjoy the finer things in life and I plan to giving Esquire Network a chance. However, for me, it doesn’t looking promising.