Comcast has relaunched video game channel G4, betting that online streaming and the growing popularity of games will make the network a hit this time around.
The channel went live this week on mainstream TV shows, including Comcast’s Xfinity and Verizon Fios, as well as online on YouTube Live and Twitch, the video game-focused streaming service. The network, dedicated to gaming and geek culture, offers an unscripted variety show, video game reviews, esports coverage and a series dedicated to the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
“It really is Saturday Night Live for gamers, âsaid G4 chairman Russell Arons, describing the programming asâ comedic irreverence, but built on insight and knowledge of the gaming world and fandom â.
Indeed, the name of the network is itself a joke. G4 is not an acronym. âIt doesn’t mean absolutely nothing,â Arons said. “It’s just a little made up.”
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G4 was a pioneer in delivering video game content to television when it debuted in 2002, but low ratings took the network off the air in 2014. The defunct brand had essentially stayed in a vault. NBCUniversal until Tucker Roberts, president of Comcast’s gaming division and son of CEO Brian Roberts, wanted to bring the channel back, Arons said.
The rebirth of G4 is Comcast’s latest gamble bet. The network is under the umbrella of Comcast Spectacor, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment unit that owns an esports team, the Philadelphia Fusion. Comcast is also backing Nerd Street Gamers, the Philly-based esports company that just opened a campus in Center City.
Consumer spending on video games is on the rise. Americans spent $ 13.3 billion from July through September, up 7% from the same period last year and the most ever spent in a third quarter, according to the marketing consultancy New Yorker NPD Group.
The Burbank, Calif.-Based network already has a presence in more homes than the original G4, in part thanks to online distribution channels like Twitch. With online streaming and wider adoption of games, the network hopes to reach 250 million households next year, far more than the original channel’s 60 million, Arons said.
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âWe’re actually talking to a large audience. It’s really a lifestyle and not just some kind of hobby that a few people are talking about secretly, âshe said. âTrend is our friend when it comes to growing the game and growing fandom as an addressable audience. “
The âdigital firstâ network is also experimenting with new ways to engage audiences online and integrate advertising into its programming. For example, the first 1,000 viewers to spot a character playing the pizza delivery guy could win free pizza from a G4 sponsor, Arons said.
âYou literally have people committing to looking at where an advertiser is,â she said. âIt’s totally different. Instead of people trying to skip an ad, now they’re engaged.