NBCU, Hearst Taking Esquire Network Digital

Troubled Esquire Network, fresh off carriage losses with AT&T U-verse and DirecTV customers last month, has opted to shutter its linear channel and focus on digital distribution.

Esquire, which launched in 2013 on the former Style channel, was targeted at young men. Owners NBCUniversal and Hearst Magazines -- parent of Esquire magazine -- targeted the channel at upscale young men, the same segment they apparently are pursuing with the digital network. In a statement the network said it would continue to offer original programming through its direct-to-consumer offering expected to launch this spring. The companies would not say when Esquire Network will go off the air but said the linear network would wind down this spring. After the drop by AT&T-owned DirecTV and U-verse, on Dec. 15, the network was reported to be in about 45 million homes. 

“Since its launch, Esquire Network has seen consistent growth among total viewers and key demos and has delivered significant value to our advertising partners. Men today consume content on a variety of platforms and it is essential that we follow our viewers,” Esquire Network and E! Entertainment president Adam Stotsky said in a statement. “We are grateful to the team that has contributed to Esquire’s many successes to date, and this new strategy sets us up for the future.”

The direct-to-consumer product, available via Esquire.com, will also feature such shows as Car Matchmaker, Knife Fight, Brew Dogs and Best Bars in America, as well as two new original series, Borderland USA (working title) and Edgehill.

“We look forward to our continued partnership with NBCUniversal with this digital driven, forward-looking strategy, which reinforces the brand’s premium value proposition,” Hearst Magazines president David Carey said in the statement.

News of the switch to digital comes about a month after AT&T’s U-verse and DirecTV dropped the channel over what it said was part of a routine plan to periodically modify its channel lineups.