G4 Aims Originals at Video Game Fans

G4 — an upstart network targeting video-game enthusiasts — will launch April 24, with a lineup of 13 original series that's geared more toward MTV: Music Television's demo than Techtv's.

The service, owned by Comcast Corp. and Insight Communications Co., will offer lifestyle, talk and personality-driven programming geared to the $9.4 billion video-game industry. It hopes to attract the elusive 12-to-34-year-old viewer, said G4 Media founder and CEO Charles Hirshhorn.

G4 hopes its dedicated focus on video games — coupled with flashy, entertainment-based shows and low license fees — will drive the network's subscribership above the 3 million homes Comcast and Insight have committed for its launch. Its rate card stands at 5 cents, and will escalate to 10 cents over the next 10 years, said COO Debra Green.

The programmer is talking with other MSOs and direct-broadcast satellite providers, Green said, but hasn't reached any carriage deals. Nonetheless, she expects the MSO to meet its goal of 30 million households in five years, which would allow G4 to turn a profit.

"Repurposed programming won't drive the digital boxes into the home," Green said. "You have to provide fresh programming that isn't available to viewers."

G4's initial programming lineup will feature 13 originals, including Arena, a digital sports-highlight game show in which competitors play the top multiplayer games, said senior vice president of programming Vince Longobardo.

Other shows include Filter, a road-show series that will take viewers across the U.S. in search of great games and arcades; Blister ,
which provides viewers with up-to-date information on games in the action and adventure genres; Cinematech, a showcase for the best high-end digital art and storytelling in game cinematics and trailers; and Sweat,
which focuses on the top sports titles.

For hard-core gamers, Cheat!
will provide tips on solving puzzles or finding hidden levels within popular video games, while Portal
will explore popular multiplayer online games.

On the news-and-talk front, Pulse
will provide late-breaking information on the gaming industry, while two video-game gurus will opine on the latest entries on Judgement Day.
And interactive talk show G4TV.COM
will give viewers and Internet users a chance to weigh in on new games and industry issues, Longobardo said.

One thing the network won't provide is interactive gaming, either on air or through its Web site (www.G4TV.com). Hirschhorn, the former president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation, said the network doesn't want to compete with the gaming industry. Rather, it hopes to offer a complementary array of programs.

Down the road, Hirschhorn expects video-game creators themselves to produce fare for the network. G4 could loosely follow in the footsteps of MTV, which provided music-video producers with a venue for programming that didn't follow the traditional television blueprint.

"We have the ability to create new genres of programming that have never been seen before," Hirschhorn said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.