Can Esquire's Brand Make a TV Channel a Hit?

NBC Universal Bets Esquire Can Take the Former G4 Upscale

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NBC Universal and Esquire magazine are partnering for a new cable TV channel that will target upscale men, the companies said Monday.

The February 2013 issue of Esquire
The February 2013 issue of Esquire

NBC Universal is rebranding G4, which had often focused on video games, as Esquire Network in April. The network, which will debut in 60 million homes, will expand upon G4's foundation of games, gear and gadgets, with broader programming ranging from entertainment and style to travel and food.

The goal is to reach 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. "Our observation is much of the programming targeting men is one dimensional," said Adam Stotsky, general manager of the Esquire Network. "There is a vast group of men who are looking for an alternative."

"Right now these men are cherry-picking shows off a bunch of networks, but there's not one full stop for them," Mr. Stotsky added.

NBC Universal has been talking to advertisers for several months. Mr. Stotsky said thus far the response has been strongly positive regarding the brand messaging and target audience, which they are calling "modern men."

NBC Universal and Esquire declined to reveal the terms of the deal, but NBCU owns the channel and will make the final decisions regarding programming. Mr. Stotsky will work closely with David Granger, editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine, to develop the brand.

"We are closely tied to its success," said David Carey, president of Esquire owner Hearst Magazines, in an email. "We'll be promoting the Esquire Network across all the relevant properties in the Hearst stable."

The network also has full access to the magazine's archives and what will appear in future issues, Mr. Carey said.

Esquire Network's first original series will include "Knife Fight," an after-hours cooking competition produced by Drew Barrymore, and a travel show executive produced by Anthony Bourdain and Zero Point Zero that's tentatively called "The Getaway." The network will also carry over the G4 series "American Ninja Warrior" and air acquired programming like NBC's "Parks and Recreation" and Showtime's "Party Down."

Mr. Carey said he had been in conversations with Mr. Stotsky since last fall about how they could work together. "The discussion soon turned to a broader and deeper relationship, culminating in today's announcement," Mr. Carey said.

It's not clear how much a TV network's branding contributes to its ratings, and younger viewers seem to organize their viewing less and less around networks and more and more around shows themselves. But taking on an established brand should be able to help a cable network register a bit better with viewers.

"The footprint of those who know and admire Esquire is many times the size of those reading the magazine or interacting with," Mr. Carey said. "That is true in fact for nearly all magazines. These are famous brands with huge brand awareness, and this is a smart way to capitalize on that."

Aside from the linear channel, the Esquire Network will include web, mobile and social experiences that link to, with plans for original web series, apps and TV Everywhere and on-demand access.

There's little precedent for a magazine evolving into a TV network. National Geographic, which is owned by News Corp., is one of the only examples, and Mr. Stotsky said there are some things they can learn from the channel, such as how the network operates as its own entity with ties to the magazine and society.

Hearst has a long-standing relationship with Scripps Network, working with Food Network and HGTV on their magazines.

"Working with cable networks to create these kinds of partnerships is part of Hearst Magazines' DNA," Mr. Carey said. "In this case, it is similar to the model we use with our hundreds of international editions: we educate our partners about the brands and make content available, whether it is Esquire, Cosmo, Bazaar or any other, and they interpret it for their markets. This is an interpretation of Esquire for a television audience."

"TV folks make TV and magazine folks make the magazine," Mr. Stotsky said regarding the success of Food Network and HGTV. "But they come together to create a fully immersive experience for consumers and advertisers."

The announcement comes less than a week after NBCUniversal's Bonnie Hammer took over the company's entire cable portfolio, adding Bravo, Oxygen, Style, Sprout and TV One. She already had oversight of USA, Syfy, E!, G4, Cloo, Chiller and Universal HD.

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