G4 (also known as G4tv) is a defunct American digital cable and satellite television channel that was owned by G4 Media, a joint venture between the NBCUniversal Cable division of NBCUniversal and Dish Network. The channel was geared primarily toward young male adult viewers and originally focused on the world of video games, before transitioning to a more general entertainment format. G4 was headquartered in Los Angeles.
In late 2012, G4's studio programming ceased in preparation for its relaunch as Esquire Network on September 23, 2013, as part of a licensing deal with Hearst Corporation, owner of Esquire magazine. However, on September 9, 2013, NBCUniversal announced that Esquire Network would instead replace sister channel, Style, leaving G4 "as is for the foreseeable future, though it's highly unlikely the company will invest in more original programming". In August 2013, it was reported that approximately 61,217,000 American households (53.61% of households with television) were receiving G4.
The channel was launched on April 24, 2002 under the ownership of Comcast. The initial concept was to create a service similar to TechTV but "geared more toward MTV's demographics" (young adults). The channel was launched with a nonstop Pong marathon being shown on the channel for a whole week. Then, on May 1, 2002, G4 first aired the following shows:
- Arena: a multi-player game competition between two teams of four players.
- Filter: a top-ten countdown voted by viewers.
- Blister: focused on action/adventure game news. This was the first show to air on G4.
- Cinematech: described as a showcase for the best high-end digital art.
- Game On: two hosts competed in video game action come to life with dire consequences for the loser.
- Sweat: focused on sports game news.
- Cheat!: tips and cheat codes on video games.
- Portal: focused on multiplayer online games.
- Pulse: news on the video-game industry.
- Judgment Day: currently known as Reviews on the Run, "two video-game gurus will opine on the latest entries."
- G4tv.com: an interactive talk show on video games.
G4 was created and originally led by Charles Hirschhorn, a former president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation. He expected video game creators themselves to eventually produce programming for the channel. He envisioned that G4 could follow in the footsteps of MTV, which in his opinion provided music video producers with a venue for non-traditional television programming. Hirschhorn intended G4 to become a vehicle for unconventional advertising. In 2002, G4 offered advertisers wide latitude to place their products on G4's programs, and even allowed their commercials to appear as if they were a part of the program. G4 offered what was called a "2 minute unit", which was an advertising package played as if it were part of a G4 program that was long enough to run an entire movie trailer. G4 offered to sell the right to have a game showcased on the show Pulse.
On March 25, 2004, Vulcan Inc. announced that G4 Media would acquire TechTV and merge it with G4. The combined channel was branded G4techTV. Days before the announced sale, Comcast made plans to close the original TechTV production facilities in San Francisco and offered new headquarters in Los Angeles with openings for 80 to 100 TechTV employees available if they were willing to relocate. Hirschhorn headed the combined entity. As a result of the merger, TechTV's weeknight anime programming block, Anime Unleashed, moved to the new network.
Second era as G4
On February 15, 2005, less than a year after the merger, "TechTV" was officially dropped from the channel's name in the U.S. and the channel became known again as G4. However, the channel's Canadian version retained the "G4techTV" name until mid-2009, when it was renamed G4.
In September 2005, Neal Tiles replaced Hirschhorn as the channel's president. Tiles had previously been a senior marketing executive at DirecTV, Fox Sports and ESPN. He announced that G4 would be retooled as a male-oriented channel, stating that "guys like to play games, but not necessarily watch a bunch of shows with games on the screen".
On March 16, 2006, G4 took Anime Unleashed off the air. In a commercial that aired on G4, promoting the network's newest additions and changes in late March and April 2006, it contained both a clip of anime and a quick flash of the Anime Unleashed logo, the logo being more visible when watched frame by frame. Despite this, and indications by G4 personnel that the block might have a chance of returning, it never came back on the air and G4 quietly canceled it.
Comcast announced on October 12, 2006, that it would consolidate its west coast entertainment operations, including G4, E! and Style into a new group headed by Ted Harbert, who had formerly run E!. It was announced that the upper management of the G4 channel would relocate to E!'s Los Angeles office. Harbert gave his opinion at the time that the focus of the channel on "gaming has been demonstrated as being too narrow." He also gave assurances that while G4 might change, it would not become extinct.
On March 4, 2007, it was announced that the G4 Studios in Santa Monica, California, would close on April 15. Production of G4 programs was relocated to the Comcast Entertainment Group facility, which housed E! and Style Network, in the Wilshire Courtyard complex in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles (G4's original facility remains in use as an E! studio and office facility and was utilized by Chelsea Lately and After Lately until their October 2012 move to Universal Studios Hollywood). As a consequence, many G4 employees involved in production were terminated. The sets of G4's original programs were also redesigned to fit within the new smaller spaces allocated to them.
In April 2007, G4, in association with Earth911, launched an electronic-waste-recycling campaign called Gcycle. After Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011 (effectively integrating NBCUniversal's stake in G4, as well as the other Comcast Entertainment Group channels, into NBCUniversal), Gcycle became part of the company's "Green is Universal" initiative.
In June 2008, G4 launched G4 Rewind, a block that showed older episodes of X-Play, Judgment Day, Cheat, G4tv.com, Arena, Portal, G4's Training Camp and GameMakers. G4 Rewind left the schedule at the end of that summer and returned for daytime reruns for older episodes of X-Play in June 2009 until January 2010.
On December 8, 2008, G4 launched a high definition simulcast of its channel alongside the entire suite of Comcast Entertainment Group networks (E! and Style).
On February 17, 2009, it was reported that G4 intended to cut back its original programming. X-Play would be reduced to three nights a week while Attack of the Show! would be cut to four nights a week. Consequently, a number of the staff and production crew involved in the shows would be laid off. Layla Kayleigh also left G4 in April 2009 after Neal Tiles announced that her contract would not be renewed.
It was announced during Comic-Con 2010 that G4 would be the exclusive North American broadcaster of Marvel Anime, which made its North American television debut in 2011. That would become G4's 4th attempt to air an anime program after Viper's Creed in 2009, Battle B-Daman in 2006 (part of Action Blast!) and Anime Unleashed from 2005 to 2006. During the week of July 26-August 1, 2010, G4 changed its logo to 4G as a promotion for Sprint Nextel's next generation wireless internet service.
Loss of DirecTV carriage
On November 1, 2010, DirecTV announced that it had removed G4 from its channel lineup, citing low interest in their subscriber base and Nielsen ratings as the primary reason for dropping of the channel. DirecTV commented that it was "...unable to reach an agreement to continue carrying the G4 channel and it has been removed from the DirecTV channel lineup." On October 30, 2010, Attack of the Show! host Kevin Pereira echoed Comcast's sentiments about the decision, stating that "G4 has offered DirectTV [sic] the same basic deal they have had for the last three years, but DirecTV has rejected this claiming that they do not see the value in G4." This move made by DirecTV marked the very start of G4's downfall, which continued until the very end of 2014.
Proposed Buyouts by UFC and WWE
It was reported that the UFC and WWE were in separate talks to buy G4 in 2011. Talks with both companies apparently fell through, and UFC eventually partnered with Fox, while WWE launched its own network on February 24, 2014.
Post-NBC Universal/Comcast merger
On January 5, 2012, Neal Tiles stepped down as CEO. He was replaced by former NBC marketing chief Adam Stotsky. Long-time employee Adam Sessler was let go during the first half of 2012. Kevin Pereira departed the network during the same period for other opportunities. On May 20, 2012, G4 was given a graphical overhaul, still utilizing the current G4 logo, except the bug moved to the bottom right corner instead of the top, and made translucent. The logo was rendered in 3D for on-air promotions. This overhaul discontinued "The Feed" ticker, and the "G-Spot" shorts shown during commercial breaks. The network's syndication agreement for Cheaters ended in December 2012.
On October 26, 2012, it was announced that X-Play and Attack of the Show! would be discontinued by the end of the year. This would end all of G4's studio programming, leaving it only airing acquired and syndicated programming. Reports of G4 rebranding itself in 2013 into an upscale men's channel appeared previous to the recent programming changes. X-Play and Attack of the Show! aired their final original episodes (taped a month earlier) on January 23, 2013.
Aborted rebrand as Esquire Network
In December 2012, NBCUniversal signed a brand licensing deal with the Hearst Corporation, owner of Esquire magazine, to relaunch G4 into Esquire Network which would air shows aimed at a metrosexual audience about travel, cooking, fashion and non-sports related male programming, including the addition of acquired and archive NBCU content such as Party Down, Parks and Recreation, and week-delayed episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The rebranding was scheduled to take place on April 22, 2013, but was moved to an unspecified date in the summer on April 15, 2013. Network general manager Adam Stotsky stated the rebranding was pushed back in order to have a broader original series slate to launch with than would have been available for the April launch. Stotsky confirmed that a new season of American Ninja Warrior would air on the network in the summer. All promotional advertising for G4, outside of spare "up next" promos for the network's daily schedule, were discontinued weeks before the aborted April launch. Limited advertising with the G4 logo within the Esquire Network's graphics scheme was produced for the new season of American Ninja Warrior, which proceeded with its premiere in June as scheduled. Sideboard advertising along the show's obstacle course had Esquire Network branding, as most of the competition was recorded before the change in rebranding. The show had more repeats on NBC during that summer to maintain ratings momentum, and eventually became an NBC series in its own right the next summer season. In May 2013, the launch date was pushed to September 23, 2013, with its first program being an 80th anniversary special for Esquire.
On September 9, 2013, news broke that NBCUniversal would replace Style with Esquire Network, leaving G4 "as is for the foreseeable future, though it's highly unlikely the company will invest in more original programming". The last active vestige of the network, G4 Media's American Ninja Warrior, became a full production of its existing production companies and NBCUniversal Television Distribution with its sixth season, leaving G4 Media solely as a dormant division of Comcast maintaining the G4 and TechTV program archives and the remaining operations of the G4 network.
Carriage removals and slow closure
Upon the re-branding of Style Network to Esquire Network on September 23, 2013, G4 was dropped by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks (Bright House carriage contracts are negotiated by Time Warner Cable), citing the network's low viewership as "(not a) good value for our customers". Verizon FiOS discontinued the channel on October 1, 2013, and Cablevision did so on October 10, 2013, pursuant to a filing with the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (that state's utility service regulator) a month prior, that NBCUniversal had plans to discontinue G4's operations as of the October 10 date, though only the discontinuation of carriage by Cablevision occurred.
Late in October 2013, Charter Communications, which was one of the charter carriers of TechTV when it was a sister of that network under the ownership of Vulcan Ventures, announced its intention to drop G4 on December 17; sister network Cloo replaced G4 on its systems. On November 1, 2013, Dish Network removed it from the lineup with Esquire Network replacing G4, ending all carriage of the network from direct broadcast satellite services. Cox ceased carriage of G4 in all markets on December 31, 2013.
Next, Comcast removed G4 on its Comcast/Xfinity systems nationwide on January 6, 2014. However, Comcast did not state outright that the network would cease operations on that date. G4 continued to be carried on other cable systems nationwide despite being largely absent from the top 10 media markets (Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Comcast, or some combination thereof, is the dominant cable operator in all of the top 10 Nielsen DMAs). G4 still appeared on NBCU's corporate website, but it was no longer present on NBCU's "Media Village" press site.
With G4 slowly winding down operations, the network's syndication rights to COPS, Heroes and Lost expired on September 1, 2014, with all of those shows being removed from the channel's line-up. Then, G4 added re-runs of its original shows back to its line-up as a way to fill up the lost timeslots originally occupied by those three shows.
Final days on air
Certain cable operators reported that the network would end all on-air operations on November 30, 2014, and the aforementioned providers continued airing the network until the alleged cutoff date (or when their contracts with G4 were fully exhausted), ending all carriage of the network from cable providers and cable television services. Some providers kept the channel on past this point, but later replaced the channel with a gray screen with G4's audio feed still being heard before removing G4 from their lineup completely. AT&T U-verse and newly formed TV provider Google Fiber were among the last services to carry G4, and continued to broadcast the channel until 11:59 p.m. ET on December 31, 2014.
G4's last programming day basically served as a final sign of the network's later channel drift by consisting of repeats of X-Play, Campus PD, Proving Ground and Human Wrecking Balls, followed by one last rerun of the special The Top 100 Video Games of All Time and the final rebroadcast of the first episode of X-Play at 11:30 p.m. ET. A note on the G4 website's program schedule was added to that particular episode saying "Thanks for watching G4." The network then ended broadcasting after that episode with a game of Pong on the screen (referencing the network's launch) gradually getting smaller and smaller before becoming just a small dot, followed by the sound of Attack of the Show! host Kevin Pereira shouting "I'm at Comic-Con!!!" (possibly alluding to G4 dying and going to Comic-Con, occasionally nicknamed "nerd heaven"), as the dot shut off like an analog TV alongside Pong's end-match bloops and the Game Boy start-up chime, symbolically ending the network with a "game over". After a few seconds, the provider's automated "network is no longer carried" card was automatically placed on-screen, ending the TechTV and G4 legacies. Several days after G4 signed off, some cable providers replaced G4's slot entirely with sister network Chiller, which in turn had replaced Fearnet months before in some markets when the two channels merged. Some other providers replaced the channel with sister network Cloo (which, like G4, eventually declined into an all-rerun lineup before its end of operations on February 1, 2017), while others gave the space to other networks such as UP and Pivot (itself discontinued at the end of October 2016).
A Canadian channel called G4 Canada was launched on September 7, 2001 as TechTV by Rogers Media (33.34%), Shaw Communications (33.33%) and TechTV U.S. (33.33%). It uses the "G4" trademark under license from NBCUniversal, and initially both channels shared a focus on technology and video game-related programming. Since the rebranding as G4, both channels deviated considerably from the original format. However, many of G4's later programs, including newer series such as That's Tough (which no longer airs as of April 2012), Electric Playground, Reviews on the Run, Campus PD and Rude Tube air on G4 Canada.
G4 Canada aired older (and often, out-of-date) tech content such as The Lab with Leo Laporte to meet their channel content requirements under CRTC guidelines in off-peak periods. Some of their programming blocks in the past paralleled each other, such as the Anime Unleashed block paralleling G4 Canada's Anime Current block, and the Midnight Spank block paralleling the ADd block.
The network's CRTC remit requires it to maintain tech content and, on occasion, it had to roll back some of G4TV's male-targeted programming due to CRTC concerns. Over time, the network has migrated to featuring new tech-related content, including syndicated programming.
The channel closed down on August 31, 2017.
In addition with the network, G4 has maintained a website, which includes video game trailers and reviews, select video clips of its original shows, and formerly, original web programming.
The network's website remained somewhat active in the latter two years of the network's existence, though features have been removed with the network's decline. The site was not updated to modern navigational or visual styles, and G4 never took up any TV Everywhere initiatives allowing viewing of the network's programs on the site with cable provider credentials. The network maintained a now-defunct iOS app featuring access to the website and forums. The network's forums ceased operation on March 18, 2013. The site was rarely updated outside of automated programming guide listings (until December 31, 2014) and advertising previews for films and games that were long released, and the channel list was frozen with channel positions as of the original April 2013 planned date of the Esquire transition. Other effects of the dormancy of the website included an updated 'top story' on February 18, 2014, advertising a freemium branded game platform known as "G4Now", interlining with sister network Syfy's gaming service SyfyGames.com. The site's "breaking news" alert tag was later used to promote Syfy or Esquire Network programming rather than any actual breaking news.
G4TV's former gaming and geek culture news blog, "The Feed", continued providing entertainment-related news articles until May 31, 2013. On June 3, 2013, articles began appearing on "The Feed" promoting Esquire Network programming. The last article in the series appeared on August 9, 2013, to promote Knife Fight with information retrieved from a random RSS feed involving a sandwich recipe. Two random entries promoting Syfy's Robot Combat League and an article about iPhone accessories appeared through 2014.
The last article posted on G4's website as a replacement for the site's schedule section, was a notice stating that "NBCUniversal has discontinued all operations for G4" seven days after the network left the air. In April 2015, the news section of the SyfyGames.com site, which features short capsule reports from several writers was rebranded as featuring 'news from G4'. As of June 2017, the G4 website remains up, but with many links broken and all images removed and leaving 'broken image' frames.
Prior to shut down, the network's programming schedule consisted of past G4 programming such as Web Soup, Campus PD and various Marvel anime shows. The network also had broadcast some of their older shows, such as Human Wrecking Balls, That's Tough, Proving Ground, and 2 Months, $2 Million. Episodes of X-Play from the last part of 2012 continued to air despite the content being out of date and featuring ended promotions such as a "Dew XP" promotion for Halo 4 involving Mountain Dew's Game Fuel drink line.
Notable hosts (2002–13)
- Wil Wheaton, co-host of "Arena" until 2003
- Kristin Adams, correspondent for X-Play
- Alex Albrecht, correspondent for Attack of the Show!
- Candace Bailey, co-host of Attack of the Show!
- Alison Haislip, correspondent/co-host of Attack of the Show! and American Ninja Warrior
- Blair Butler, comic book correspondent for "Fresh Ink" on Attack of the Show!
- Jessica Chobot, correspondent for X-Play and Attack of the Show!, co-host of Proving Ground
- Chris Gore, movie correspondent for "DVDuesday" on Attack of the Show!'
- Laura Foy, co-host of g4tv.com
- Chris Hardwick, host of Web Soup
- Grace Helbig, correspondent for Attack of the Show!
- Blair Herter, co-host of X-Play and correspondent for Attack of the Show!
- Matt Iseman, co-host of American Ninja Warrior
- Geoff Keighley, co-host of Judgment Day and g4tv.com
- Michael Louden, co-host of Arena until 2003 (deceased)
- Victor Lucas, host of Judgment Day
- Chi-Lan Lieu, co-host of The Screen Savers until 2005.
- Matt Mira, correspondent for "Gadget Pr0n" on Attack of the Show!
- Diane Mizota, host of "Filter" until 2005.
- Jonny Moseley, co-host of American Ninja Warrior
- Olivia Munn, co-host of Attack of the Show!
- Kevin Pereira, co-host of The Screen Savers/Attack of the Show! and "Arena"
- Kevin Rose, co-host of Attack of the Show!
- Sarah Lane, co-host of Attack of the Show!
- Lee Reherman, co-host of Arena
- Adam Sessler, co-host of X-Play 1998-2012 and regular appearances on Attack of the Show!
- Angela Sun, correspondent for American Ninja Warrior
- Tommy Tallarico, co-host of Judgment Day
- Tiffany Smith, correspondent for X-Play and Attack of the Show!
- Sara Underwood, anchor of "The Feed" on Attack of the Show!
- Morgan Webb, co-host of X-Play
- Tina Wood, host of g4tv.com