Esquire Network Cable Channel to Shutter, Will Relaunch as Digital Brand

American Ninja Warrior Still 1 H 2016
Joe Robbins/NBC

Esquire Network's cable channel is shutting down. 

The NBCUniversal Entertainment cable channel will move to an online digital platform that will launch this spring, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The news comes a month after the network lost 15 million subscribers when AT&T's DirecTV and U-Verse dropped the niche channel. Negotiations had been brewing between Esquire Network and Carter Communications over contract-carriage renewals when news of the cable channel's impending demise broke. 

The channel was conceived in 2013 as a destination to reach a more mature, affluent male demo, or rather that "modern man" as the audience was described internally. In success, it would fill a void left by the more testosterone-heavy channels — think Spike or History — on the dial. In actuality, the network averaged only 141,000 primetime viewers in 2016, putting it in a precarious position in an a la carte future.

Esquire (and E!) president Adam Stotsky struck a more optimistic tone Wednesday in his statement. “Since its launch, Esquire Network has seen consistent growth among total viewers and key demos and has delivered significant value to our advertising partners. Men today consume content on a variety of platforms and it is essential that we follow our viewers,” he said. “We are grateful to the team that has contributed to Esquire’s many successes to date, and this new strategy sets us up for the future.”

Added Hearst Magazines president David Carey: “We look forward to our continued partnership with NBCUniversal with this digital-driven, forward-looking strategy, which reinforces the brand’s premium value proposition."

In recent years, NBCU Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer has been vocal about the need to be nimble in an increasingly competitive and quickly evolving landscape. During a roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter in summer 2016, she acknowledged: "We're all experimenting. Years ago, something would happen and you had a decade to catch up and figure it out. [Then it was] about five years. Now it's five weeks."