Down-market or upmarket? For a new network, just make sure you don’t aim too much at a niche market.
NBCUniversal's G4, which was geared to video gamers and other technology-minded young males, has learned that lesson. It was only able to get distribution into some 62 million homes. To attract national advertising, cable networks need to be in some 85 million U.S. TV homes, or three-quarters of the total.
And a new network these days doesn’t want to be too much like other networks – so it should avoid lobster chasing, gold-mine storage units, ducks and pawnbroker money. There’s plenty of all that around.
G4’s new iteration as the Esquire Channel wants to cater to "sophisticated" male viewers. So it won't include wrestling, drunken beer drinking events, or crazy athletic competitions?
Maybe. Esquire will air episodes of NBC's summer reality show "American Ninja Warrior" that were full of dubious athletic-style events. Could what’s needed be "sophisticated reality shows" -- or is that a contradiction in terms?
Adam Stotsky, Esquire Channel’s general manager, told The New York Times that the network will eventually be different. Taking shots at shows on the likes of A&E, History, Discovery and Spike, he said, “Much of today’s programming targets men in a one-dimensional way," citing “down-market shows” about “tattoos or pawn shops or storage lockers or axes or hillbillies."
Well, one can argue with that thinking. Because -- like it or not -- those shows do indeed get healthy viewership.
So what current shows attract “sophisticated” male viewers? The NFL would probably do that job, or, to a lesser extent, Major League Baseball, the NBA, ESPN's "SportsCenter" and other shows.
A big question is whether or not the Esquire brand name is big enough to lure upscale men in TV-sizable numbers. In some ways, it’s the same problem that has already faced both G4 and Spike.
Growing digital options keep growing, making it harder not just for men but for all audiences to amass around new TV networks. This has affected OWN, CW, The Hub, NBC Sports Network and others. Esquire will have its work cut out for it, sophisticatedly speaking.