In a surprise reversal of fortunes, the forthcoming Esquire Network will take the place of Style Network when it debuts this month instead of G4, as was long planned.
NBC Universal Cable Entertainment Group chairman Bonnie Hammer gave staffers the news via an internal memo on Monday, explaining that Style duplicated the efforts of some sibling networks at NBC Universal. The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
"With Bravo, E! and Oxygen, we offer unique takes on popular culture for an ever-broadening audience, including the all-important female demo," Ms. Hammer wrote. "In pursuit of that same demo, Style presents brand overlap within our portfolio."
"Esquire Network, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to introduce a lifestyle network that speaks to an upscale male audience underserved in the current marketplace," she continued. "So, in an effort to establish the most productively diversified portfolio, the decision has been made to rebrand Style as the Esquire Network…"
Style President Salaam Coleman-Smith will remain with the network through the transition and play an integral role at NBC Universal in the future, Ms. Hammer said in the memo.
The change seems to be good news for the Esquire Network, which will take over a channel that is in 75 million homes on Sept. 23 instead of 60 million.
In the memo, Ms. Hammer did not elaborate on the future of G4, which has its roots in video games and gadgets.
The move is the latest by Ms. Hammer since she took over NBC Universal's suite of cable networks in February. She had previously controlled just half of the cable portfolio, including USA, Syfy and E!, with the other half reporting to Lauren Zalaznick.
NBC Universal, part of Comcast, has had a hard time finding a place for Style. The network received a facelift in June 2012, introducing a new logo and tagline. It currently averages 79,000 viewers in the all-important 18-to-49 demo in prime-time. That's still more, however, than the 56,000 18-to-49-year-olds that G4 is winning in that time period.
Esquire, for its part, was initially intended to take over G4's slot on the channel grid back in April, but the timeline was pushed back so more original programming could be made available.
The network will premiere with five original series, including "American Ninja Warrior"; the cooking competition series, "Knife Fight"; a celebrity travel series from Anthony Bourdain called "The Getaway"; and two series produced by Ryan Seacrest, "How I Rock It" and "American Field Trip." Esquire will also air reruns of "Psych," "Burn Notice," "Party Down," "Parks and Recreation" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
Esquire's target audience is men 18-to-49 who are highly educated, upwardly mobile and upscale, a demographic that NBC Universal said is being under-served by current TV lineups.