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Beginning April 22, the former gaming network G4 will be rebranded the Esquire Network.
The news comes two months after The Hollywood Reporter reported that NBCUniversal, which owns the cable network, and Esquire parent Hearst Magazines had inked a deal to create a network catering to the modern man. NBCU will retain ownership of the channel, with GM Adam Stotsky working closely with Esquire’s editor in chief David Granger to develop the brand.
“There is a vastly underserved audience in cable TV – today’s modern man – and by joining forces with Esquire, we will deliver a multiplatform experience to this upscale, engaged, passionate audience, one that widens the aperture beyond G4’s technology and gaming base,” said Stotsky in a statement. “Esquire magazine brings 80 years of unparalleled insight into what makes men tick, and we will incorporate the best of this iconic brand to produce original shows that build the network for growth and success.”
Described in The New York Times as a male iteration of Bravo – a cable network that this channel’s corporate leader Bonnie Hammer gained ownership of during a corporate restructuring last week — the network is designed to fill a void left open by a TV landscape that caters instead to the tough-minded, beer-guzzling man’s man with networks ranging from Spike to History. Looking to capture the tastes of the modern male –- and the deep-pocketed advertisers looking to court him — Esquire will look to expand on G4’s foundation of games, gear and gadgets to include food, fashion, women, humor, travel, danger, competition and entertainment. Rather than mimic what lines the pages of Esquire magazine, the channel will look to translate the publication’s ethos.
“Creating smart, entertaining programming for the high-normal American man fills a void in the cable universe,” said Granger. “We at Esquire work hard to challenge and inspire and entertain our audience across all our print and digital expressions, and the new Esquire Network is finding new and ambitious ways to take that mission to television.”
Much like Bravo’s plans going forward, the Esquire Network will feature a mix of unscripted and scripted fare as well as movies and specials. Included in the current development slate is Knife Fight, an underground, after-hours cooking competition where talented chefs go head to head in front of a rowdy crowd of celebrities, critics and die-hard foodies. Drew Barrymore and her Flower Films along with Honey Boo Boo’s Authentic Entertainment will serve as executive producers on the effort, which will be hosted by Top Chef winner Ilan Hall.
Among the other originals: the tentatively titled The Getaway, which will be executive produced by Anthony Bourdain and Zero Point Zero. The series will feature well-known personalities – tapped as people deservedly famous for excellence in their fields – who take viewers to their favorite city and offer them the insiders’ track on their top spots to eat, drink, shop and hang out.
As part of the rebranding, the network also has renewed popular competition series American Ninja Warrior for a fifth season. The series will continue to air this summer on both the Esquire Network and NBC. Joining the schedule will be repeats of critically acclaimed comedies Parks and Recreation and Starz’ since-canceled Party Down.
Added NBCU ad sales president Linda Yaccarino: “Esquire Network will give advertisers access to one of the most coveted and untapped audiences in the cable entertainment marketplace – the upwardly mobile, educated and highly engaged man. We are already in talks with key clients and developing fully integrated opportunities for them to align their brands with this elusive, hard to reach demo.” The network’s new website, which will feature original web series, will be linked to the men’s magazine site, Esquire.com.
In exploring potential partners, NBCU had conversations with Hearst rival Conde Nast, too, according to multiple sources. For their part, NBC and Hearst Corp. have a history, having served as co-owners of A&E Networks as recently as this summer, when the former sold its 15.8 percent stake for $3.03 billion. Hearst maintains an ownership stake in the cable group, which includes Lifetime, A&E, History and Bio.
E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose
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