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G4’s 'Development’ Deal A Further Shift From Games

The Man Show, Star Trek 2.0 and, starting this fall, Arrested Development.

Not necessarily shows that one would associate with G4, the Comcast Corp.-owned network aimed at video-game enthusiasts with some tech heads thrown in, due to the network’s acquisition and integration of TechTV and its computer-related programming in 2004.

But G4 president Neal Tiles said the low-rated, critically acclaimed former Fox comedy — which will also be streamed on MSN.com and telecast on HDNet — is a perfect fit for G4’s demographics.

DEMO AFFINITY

The service, not yet rated by Nielsen Media Research, regularly polls a panel of gamers, Tiles said. During its three-season run on Fox, Arrested Development was consistently ranked as one of the top-three shows among that group.

“We’re the fastest-growing network among 18-to-34 [year-old] men,” Tiles said, noting that 75% of G4’s current audience is male, a ratio that over-indexes that segment compared to every other network.

On Fox, Arrested Development drew twice the 18-to-34 audience than that of other shows on the network, with a median viewer age of 31, said Tiles.

“Our goal, overall, is to surround our viewers with relevant content. To a certain extent, this show fits our catered demo and is in sync with our brand properties.”

At the beginning of the year, Arrested Development looked like it might find a home on Showtime. The premium network even delayed pick-up orders for Emmy Award-winner Huff while executives tried to work out a production deal. Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt expressed his interest at the winter Television Critics Association tour contingent upon a commitment from “the genius behind the show,” creator Mitchell Hurwitz, to continue with the production.

But when Hurwitz couldn’t be lured back, Fox Entertainment Group began talking to other suitors, eventually settling on MSN.com, HDNet and G4, with each platform licensing all 53 episodes for three years. Deal terms were not disclosed.

With all of the licensees eyeing a fall launch, executives from each venue are talking about marketing the series with one or two of the other platforms.

Rob Bennett, general manager of video and entertainment services for MSN, said the Web portal will design an entire experience for fans of the loopy Bluth family, including areas where they can chat with each other.

“The scope will be so much further than broadcast,” he said. MSN, which will allow fans to view any of the episodes on-demand, has experience with such ancillary programming, as it has provided online programming related to last summer’s CBS reality series Rockstar: INXS. The promotion “drove traffic in both directions,” he said.

Bennett didn’t think the series would be overexposed. “They’re three distinct viewing experiences,” he said, noting that online screening would be more immersive and viewing on G4 and HDNet more passive in nature.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT MATCHUP?

Adding to its off-network acquisition stable that includes Smallville, Joan of Arc and Showtime’s Dead Like Me, HDNet will debut Arrested Development, perhaps via back-to-back episodes on Wednesday nights, in September.

Reached via e-mail, network president and co-founder Mark Cuban said launch marketing strategies are in development, but added he wants to work with MSN to co-promote the series.

G4 is looking to bow the series in October, perhaps even on Wednesdays, as Tiles saw no reason to exclude that night from his scheduling plans: G4 has 57 million subscribers; HDNet is in 3 million homes.

Tiles is still mulling positioning, though. He noted the series could pair well with another popular acquisition, Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it also could be matched up with video game review show X-Play, which he described as G4’s highest-rated show and which currently airs 4 p.m. daily.