NBCUniversal may bring in a partner in the upcoming revamp of struggling cable channel G4. I hear that NBCU is in talks with Hearst about partnering on the channel. What’s more, I hear the two sides are exploring a rebranding of the channel tied to the Heast-owned men’s magazine Esquire, possibly as Esquire Channel. Associating G4 with a brand like Esquire would make sense since NBCU had been looking to keep the male-centric nature of the channel but make it more upscale and sophisticated, which is what Esquire is about. NBCU declined comment.
NBCU decided to go with an upscale makeover for G4 after overtures from the likes of UFC and WWE to take a controlling stake in the channel last year fell through. A deal for G4 would reunite NBCU and Hearst, which were co-owners of A+E Networks until NBCU cashed its stake in July. Hearst’s cable holdings include stakes in A+E’s A&E, Lifetime and History, as well as ESPN. As part of G4’s evolution from a gaming/tech channel (as part of Comcast, it was merged with TechTV in 2004) to a more upscale, sophisticated network, G4 announced in October that it is cancelling long-running series Attack Of The Show! and X-Play.
Rebranding G4 would fit into the strategy of NBCU cable maven Bonnie Hammer, who added control of E! and G4 after the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. E! has already changed its look and logo and is undergoing a makeover towards more sophisticated programming, including adding scripted series. Hammer’s first major move at G4 was the hire of former NBC marketing chief Adam Stotsky as general manger in January.