ust two weeks before launching a men’s lifestyle cable network called Esquire Network, NBCUniversal has changed its mind about which of its existing networks will form the basis of the new channel.
NBCUniversal said Monday that instead of rebranding its male-targeted gaming network G4 as Esquire, as announced earlier this year, the new network will take the place of its female-skewing Style network.
The decision means that Esquire will be taking over a network with a distribution of 75 million subscribers, rather than one with 62 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
It isn’t clear that all of the pay-TV providers that carry Style will agree to the change. While some have signed on, negotiations with others are under way, said a person familiar with the matter.
NBCUniversal, which is controlled by Comcast Corp., CMCSA +1.29% is launching the new Esquire channel in cooperation with Esquire’s publisher, Hearst Corp., though NBCUniversal will fully own and operate the channel. Aiming to create a channel with the sensibility of the men’s magazine, NBCU hopes to attract an affluent male audience that is typically hard to reach on television. The programming mix is to range from fashion to food and travel.
G4 already attracts a male audience, although younger and less affluent than that sought by the new channel. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer, who took charge of all the company’s cable channels around the time the Esquire channel was originally announced, said Monday the change of heart reflected a belief that “Style presents brand overlap within our portfolio.” NBCUniversal also owns the better performing female targeted cable channels Bravo, E! and Oxygen.
Prime-time ratings at both Style and G4 have declined in the past year, although Style’s drop was bigger. In the first six months of this year, G4 drew an average of 125,000 total viewers and 53,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic that advertisers care most about, while Style drew an average of 129,000 total viewers and 68,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic, according to an analysis of Nielsen ratings by Horizon Media. But G4 dropped only 2.3% in total viewers and 17% in the 18-49 demographic in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, while Style dropped 20.3% in total viewers and 24% in the 18-49 demographic.
Style’s ratings also paled in comparison to those of fellow female-focused channels. At prime time, Bravo drew an average of 837,000 total viewers in that period and 481,000 in the 18-49 demographic; E! averaged 483,000 total viewers and 284,000 in the 18-49 demographic; and Oxygen averaged 387,000 total viewers and 200,000 in the 18-49 demographic.
Esquire’s original launch date of April was delayed to give the network time to develop more original content. The idea for using Style rather than G4 as the basis of the new network didn’t emerge until about two months ago, according to a person familiar with the matter, and was kept under wraps until now while NBCUniversal decided what to do about staffing at Style. Nearly 100 people work at Style, and some of them will be offered jobs elsewhere within NBCUniversal, the person said.
Source: wallstreetjournal.com, 9/9/13