Game change: G4 to become Esquire Network
BY BILL CARTER, New York Times
Esquire, the magazine that has relied on the printed page for the last 80 years, is making a move into television.
On Monday, NBCUniversal announced that it has concluded a deal with Hearst Magazines to rebrand one of NBC's existing cable properties, the G4 network, as a new entity, the Esquire Network. The purpose: to refashion a cable channel that has been devoted to video gaming and devices into what NBC's top cable executive described as "an upscale Bravo for men."
Only last week, that executive, Bonnie Hammer, added Bravo -- the network of "Real Housewives" and other female-centric lifestyle programming -- to the portfolio of cable networks she oversees, so the juxtaposition is well timed. The Esquire Network will have its debut on April 22. It will be available in 62 million homes with cable or satellite service.
Neither side would discuss the specific financial arrangements, but said the renamed channel was not a joint venture. "We own G4," Hammer said. "There are no ownership issues here." David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, the publisher of Esquire, said, "We have a strong interest in this succeeding."
For viewers of the G4 network, the change will mean a sharp shift from the gaming-centered programming that attracted some men to shows that will draw an audience that NBC executives are persuaded Esquire stands for: "The modern man, what being a man today is all about," as Adam Stotsky, the general manager of the new network, said.
Specifically, NBC is hoping to capture a more educated, affluent, sophisticated male viewer, who is not being served, as its research concluded, by the male-oriented, nonsports programming on cable channels like Discovery and Spike. "Much of today's programming targets men in a one-dimensional way," Stotsky said, with what he called "down-market shows" about "tattoos or pawn shops or storage lockers or axes or hillbillies."
The Esquire Network will offer shows aimed at capturing other areas of interest, like cars, politics, world affairs, travel, fashion and cooking. David Granger, Esquire's editor in chief, said he expected the programming to be "not duplicative of what readers find in the magazine, but in the same wheelhouse."
Stotsky said his development staff would generate the program ideas. One of the network's first original series is "Knife Fight," a reality competition about "after-hours cook-offs" among young chefs.