Esquire Network plans to expand on G4’s foundation of games, gear and gadgets. Program categories and genres will feature not only gaming and technology but also entertainment, food, fashion, women, humor, travel, competition, danger and more. Esquire’s unscripted projects in development include Knife Fight, executive produced by Drew Barrymore, Flower Films and Authentic Entertainment. Hosted by Top Chef winner Ilan Hall, Knife Fight is 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. Another original series, The Getaway (working title), is executive produced by Anthony Bourdain and Zero Point Zero and features travel-loving, well-known personalities — people deservedly famous for excellence in their fields — who take viewers to their favorite city on the planet, giving the insiders’ track on their top spots to eat, drink, shop and hang out. “There is a vastly under-served audience in cable TV — today’s modern man — and by joining forces with Esquire, we will deliver a multi-platform experience to this upscale, engaged, passionate audience, one that widens the aperture beyond G4’s technology and gaming base,” Stotsky said. “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.”
NBCU decided to go with an upscale makeover for G4 after overtures from the likes of UFC and WWE to take a controlling stake in the channel last year fell through. A deal for G4 would reunite NBCU and Hearst, which were co-owners of A+E Networks until NBCU cashed its stake last July. Hearst’s cable holdings include stakes in A+E’s A&E, Lifetime and History, as well as ESPN. As part of G4′s evolution from a gaming/tech channel (as part of Comcast, it was merged with TechTV in 2004) to a more upscale, sophisticated network, G4 announced in October that it is cancelling long-running series Attack Of The Show! and X-Play.
Rebranding G4 fits into the strategy of NBCU cable maven Bonnie Hammer, who added control of E! and G4 after the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. E! has already changed its look and logo and is undergoing a makeover towards more sophisticated programming, including adding scripted series. Hammer’s first major move at G4 was the hire of former NBC marketing chief Adam Stotsky as general manger in January 2012.