Commentary

Esquire Network Seeks Young 'Gentlemen' -- Hopefully With Money

NBC Universal’s Esquire Network, launched on Monday, says it is “a television network 80 years in the making.” That’s good news, since by anyone’s estimate TV is about 86 years old, dating from the time Philo Farnsworth transmitted some images from his San Francisco laboratory.

Turns out that the network is referring to when Esquire magazine started in October 1933. That “gentlemen’s” magazine, which existed before Playboy, was, at times, an edgy publication, and yes, full of nice pictures of ladies in provocative states of dress. (Hugh Hefner worked at Esquire before starting Playboy).

For a long time, Esquire did have a risque mindset -- even into the 1950s. On “The Honeymooners,” Art Carney’s Ed Norton showed Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden a copy of the magazine: “Hey, Raphie. Esquire! Va-va voom!”

Esquire Network doesn’t seem to be moving totally in that direction, though it may still have some “voom.” Images from the network’s video trailer show what might be familiar to the Esquire brand: sharply dressed young men, fast cars, women, tattoos, motorcycles, and someone pouring cocktails.  It also includes other images that might not be familiar, such as a young man in a tux jumping into a pool.

According to Esquire Network’s website, subjects to be covered included style and grooming, politics, entertainment, food and drink, and women.

Targeting men on TV has been a tough chore for many -- especially those who don’t have a ball of some sort, a time clock, or some fighting. Generally, the TV programming high on the list of men’s favorites has involved the likes of the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball . (A lot part of prime-time TV -- around 60%, according to Nielsen -- focuses on what women want).

Further down on the list is programming on other networks that have tried to go the non-sports route. This includes some of what Spike TV tried to do in offering a mix of sports and non-sports content, including mixed martial arts, video games, WWE wrestling, X-games-like programming and music. (G4, another NBCUniversal channel, also targets young men for their video game/technology interests).

Esquire seems to be trying to find a gap between traditional sports programming and general entertainment, looking for today’s younger “gentlemen.”

Do they exist? Maybe. But they might be few in number, with even fewer perhaps having the kind of disposable income Esquire’s initial upscale advertisers might seek.

Esquire’s programming? New reality shows like “Knife Fight” (a rough and tumble cooking competition of sorts), “The Getaway” (a travel series) and “Brew Dogs (following the owners of a UK brewery) will get some schedule space along with reruns of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Parks & Recreation” and “American Ninja Warriors.”

Esquire magazine’s longtime tagline is “Man at His Best.” Esquire Network doesn’t have a tagline. Perhaps it should be “Young Man Hoping for the Best.”

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