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Network for a Real (Rich) Man

Esquire TV launches today (Sept. 23) with an eye toward capturing what the network deems to be an underserved TV demographic: upscale, affluent men. Debuting to more than 75 million homes — the result of NBCUniversal’s surprise decision that the new network would replace the female-targeted Style Network, rather than the male-centric, video game-focused G4 — the Hearst Magazines co-owned channel plans to offer five new shows during its first week.

Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead spoke with Esquire Network general manager Adam Stotsky about the network’s debut, its 11th-hour move to absorb Style, and the task of transitioning the Esquire magazine brand — celebrating its 80th anniversary this month — to cable television.

MCN: How well do you think theEsquirebrand will translate from print into the cable space?

Adam Stotsky: We’re using the Esquire brand, which has spent the last 80 years cultivating a relationship with what they call the “high normal American man.” But where the magazine stops, the network will start. We think that we share DNA [with the magazine] in terms of developing intelligent storytelling with a sense of humor across a diverse set of interests and passions. We’re creating deeply entertaining stories with the interests and passions of men today.

Overall, we’re excited to bring the network to market. We’ve spent some time identifying what we see as white space on the television dial, and we saw opportunity in the lifestyle space and believe there’s no singular lifestyle network for men today. We’ve got great support from NBC management and we’re just excited to bring it to market.

MCN: What is the network’s target audience?

AS: Right now, the singular go-to place to reach men is ESPN and sports. Our observation is that men are definitely into sports, but they have lots of other interests and passions. We see an opportunity within the lifestyles and entertainment space to create something that’s unique and differentiated, and that connects with other interests and passions like food, drink, travel, adventure, passion, style, architecture, business, real estate, politics and all the subject matter that the magazine [has] explored across its 80-year history. We think it can serve as the base off of which we can create a really interesting lifestyle network targeting a slightly more upscale, affluent and educated man.

MCN: What will the first originals look like?

AS: We kick off the network with a two-hour documentary on the Esquire brand. It’s 80 years old this month and we think it’s a really great reminder of the cultural impact that this brand has had not only on men, but on pop culture globally. It’s a perfect scene setter for this new brand.

On Tuesday we’ll launch two shows, Brew Dogs, which is a show about craft-brew culture in different cities; and Knife Fight, which is a cooking competition, but it’s one that you’ve never seen before. It’s like an underground pickup game of basketball with knives and fire and three mystery ingredients. It takes a subject matter that we know our guys are interested in and we put it in a TV format that we know our guys watch and serves it up in a unique, edgy, grounded, provocative way.

On Wednesday we’ll launch two more shows, including The Getaway — produced by Anthony Bourdain and it’s a travel show — but instead of Bourdain travelling we have a really interesting roster of travel loving celebrities. We’ll round out our first slate of programming with a show called Boundless, which is a story about two Canadian athletes who drop out of their everyday lives to compete in the world’s most extreme ultra races.

We also have four more originals rolling out in November and we have a lot more original content rolling out in 2014.

MCN: How many subscribers are you launching in front of?

AS: We’re launching to 75 million subscribers.

MCN: Initially, Esquire was supposed to take over G4, but two weeks ago NBCUniversal decided that it would take over women’s targeted network Style. How big a move was that for Esquire Network?

AS: We’ve been super-focused on debuting Sept. 23, and this move from rebranding Style to Esquire Network is really terrific for us. It allows us to reach more people, and we’re excited that NBCUniversal has real confidence in our story and we’re looking forward to getting onto it.

MCN: Does it concern you that as a men’s-targeted network you’re transitioning to a network that has a predominantly female following?

AS: We’re focused on creating something real and unique, and while we’re creating a decidedly male experience, I think that we believe the brand will be very accessible to women along the way. We believe that the content that we’re creating is decidedly male in its focus and attitude, but we believe it will be very accessible to women and very accommodating to coviewing along the way.

Interestingly, the magazine has about 35% female readership, and I think that kind of balance would be terrific for our network as well.

MCN: Do you view Spike TV or other male-targeted networks as direct competitors to Esquire Network?

AS: There’s always going to be competition. We’re competing for folks’ leisure time and they have a lot of opportunities to spend their free time doing lots of things. We’re really focused on creating this unique and differentiated men’s lifestyle network that connects with the diverse set of interests and passions of men today. We believe we’re serving that up from a unique point of view that should be fresh and very appealing to our perspective target audience.