As a TechTV fan, I am all but contractually obliged to hate G4 and root for its failure and utter demise. Why shouldn’t I? When Comcast bought TechTV, instead of it being a solid merger of equals (which it wasn’t), the lesser-known G4 culture took over the more tech-savvy, nerd-friendly environment of TechTV. The show that was essentially the face of TechTV, The Screen Savers, was affected the most in the transition, eventually morphing into Attack of the Show. The show affected the least was X-Play, one of the two real reasons Comcast bought TechTV for in the first place (the other being the lucrative, plentiful channel space). By the end of 2005, the G4 virus had completely taken over the network, and all things TechTV was gone.
They decided to go for that 18-34 male demographic that no other network caters to except for every five out of six television networks in the United States in 2005 and cut back on original fare for the remainder of the decade. In 2010, DirecTV dropped G4 because the programming was becoming lackluster and lost a lot of its viewers (the tech fans and the gamer crowd abandoned the network once the network abandoned them). By the end of 2012, G4 dropped its last two original programs from the network, Attack of the Show and X-Play, ironically two shows with TechTV roots, and planned to relaunch the channel as an upscale men’s channel aimed towards that oh-so-elusive 18-34 demographic. The officials at NBC Universal, G4’s current operators after the NBCU/Comcast merger, licensed the Esquire brand and planned to relaunch G4 as The Esquire Network in spring 2013. A week before the April relaunch, after many months of promotion, the relaunch was delayed to fall 2013, more specifially September 23, 2013. The excuse given at the time was that they had no programming ready for the network in time for the launch, which was absolute bollocks considering a strong schedule given to the popular Sitcoms Online news site a week prior to launch. The months of promotion continued throughout the summer on G4 and outside the channel. September 2013 came, and the Esquire Network’s launch was weeks away. However, on September 9, 2013, a sudden shift from NBC Universal. Instead of launching The Esquire Network on G4, they announced that they would change Style Network, an E! spinoff that overlaps with the female demographics catered by Bravo and Oxygen, into The Esquire Network. People were fired and reshuffled that day and Style began its two-week farewell from the airwaves in preparation for Esquire’s launch.
As for G4, nothing is planned. At all.
No return of older shows, no revival of cancelled fare, nothing but repeats on top of repeats. NBC Universal has turned G4 into a zombie channel. And that’s the plans for the foreseeable future.
Damned shame, really because given a little work, a lot of care, G4 could be the geek-centric television network we all deserve.
Here’s what I’d do. NBC Universal, if you guys and gals are reading this, take notes:
For starters, I’d keep the name G4. The brand may not make sense under its current name, but it is owned outright by the company. No need to Cloo of Syfy it up. I’ll refine what the name means. Before, G4 meant Games, Gizmos, Gadgets, and Gear. I’d embrace Geekdom, Gaming, Gear, and Gigabytes. That’s the building block for what G4 should be about.
Geekdom covers a culture often mocked but rarely celebrated in the mass medium. Those that are into sci-fi, anime, comics, cult shows from all over the globe, and other things long before the mainstream take notice of them. They made San Diego a secular Mecca every mid-July. They’re the individuals who more or less rule the world and controls what goes out in the public. These are the audiences TechTV and Sci-Fi Channel embraced, G4 shunned, and Syfy ignores.
Gaming is obvious. That culture was instrumental in the creation of the original G4 and a bit of it remains, especially in the form of X-Play and their E3 coverage. And it’ll be nice if they got back into that part of who they are. More shows like X-Play, Icons and Cinematech.
Gear involves the things we can’t live without. The latest in pixels and plastic we won’t leave at our house. We’re an on-the-go society, and G4 could showcase what’s new, what’s coming, and how we can make what we have better. The future is here; we’re just too blind to notice it.
Gigabytes. Computers rule our lives. They confuse us. They inform us. They entertain us. And yet, there’s still so much we don’t know about them. TechTV used to be the outlet that gave viewers an insight as to what they could do with their computers, people who are doing great things with their computers, tutorials to make you better, more creative computer users, and solving what’s causing your hair to fall out. Sure, there are online sites that do that, but television is just as good a place to get started.
Now you know what G4 is all about, here’s how I’ll use the NBCUniversal resources to make it a better network.
Merge G4’s operations into Syfy’s general operations (Syfy makes more sense than E!, where they and Style/Esquire are based right now). They should be as close as brothers and more or less catered to the same demographics, plus, Syfy created two domains that could easily be incorporated into the new G4’s direction. Blastr should become an access point for genre-based news while Dvice should represent the Gear/Gigabytes components of what TechTV used to be, covering the latest in tech news. I’d even develop a weekly Blastr series for G4 in the vein of Sci-Fi Channel’s old Sci-Fi Buzz and a Dvice weekly series not unlike TechTV’s Fresh Gear. With G4tv.com, Syfy Online Networks could become the convergence of television, the internet, and beyond.
G4’s lineup should balance the four G elements. I put Geekdom first because it should be celebrated, not mocked, shunned, or embarrassed as it is on G4 and Syfy. Geekdom is what the core of G4 is all about. To ignore that geeky nature is to lose one’s self. G4 got rid of its geeky nature, and the audience on the network has never been the same. Cater to this demographic, which is prevalent in ALL sexes, not just males, and you’ll have a network people would be talking about.
NBC Universal doesn’t have to do this alone. In case you missed the news, NBC Universal recently entered a production partnership with Legendary Pictures. Legendary’s Nerdist Industries unit could easily provide original programming for G4, including a daily geek culture audience show in the tradition of The Screen Savers/Attack of the Show that could be a marquee brand for the network. Geek-friendly outlets like Comics Alliance, War Rocket Ajax, Cracked, and many others would be nice to see too. Getting programming from Discovery’s Revision3 (a production company founded by several former TechTV personalities) on the channel would be a coup as well as a sign that this is truly a geek-friendly network.
G4 wouldn’t be inundated with library fare, but genre shows that don’t get much love from Syfy would be a vital part of the afternoon programming. They could easily devote two hours oer afternoon to some of the shows that would easily fit in the genre. Stuff like Quantum Leap, Sliders, The Six Million Dollar Man, SeaQuest DSV, The Bionic Woman, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica (both versions), Heroes, Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Swamp Thing, Weird Science, My Secret Identity, Out of This World, Amazing Stories, Exo-Squad, Young Hercules, and Xena: Warrior Princess would find their way in that two-hour block. Genre shows from third-parties would fit in nicely as well.
Creating a nightly animation block would cut into Adult Swim’s audience. Bringing in studios like Titmouse to create original fare shouldn’t be a problem. Neither is acquiring anime titles from distributors like Funimation, Viz, Sentai, Aniplex, or Starz, especially since they could be given earlier timeslots on nights Adult Swim won’t air such programming. Alternative animation not seen elsewhere would be a welcome sight.
I’d have NBC News and G4 producing monthly science/tech specials, South Bank Show-like arts shows, or In Search Of-like investigations as well as documentaries pertaining to the four Gs. A resurrection of Icons into a weekly Biography-like series would be a great bi-monthly series. Call the umbrella series G4 Presents. Classing up the network every week.
The thing is NBC Universal has decided that the world needs both an Esquire Network and a channel like G4. It’s frustrating that nobody there is willing to remake the channel into something that would attract the geek culture of the country.
I’d like to see someone take on that task right now.