HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Comcast Funds 24-Hour Video Game Channel29 Nov, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi
Comcast Corporation is funding a 24-hour video game channel called G4, which will launch in April 2002 with 2.5 million to five million committed subscribers through Comcast Cable and Insight Communications, and is expected to grow to seven to 10 million homes by the end of 2002.
Comcast’s initial investment in G4 was $150 million and the company plans to break even in its fourth or fifth year of programming. The channel will launch with 13 original weekly series, ranging from news programs to game shows, all of which will have either a video game theme or will be geared towards the key video game demographic, men 18 to 34 and teens 12 to 17.
Initially, there will be three blocks of programming, seven hours long, which will air three times daily.
“Over 145 million Americans play computer and video games,” said Amy Banse, v.p. of programming investments, Comcast Corporation. “This diverse community needs representation on our channel lineup. Comcast has been an avid supporter of G4 from its earliest development. G4 is a totally unique programming service that will appeal to video gamers everywhere. We are delighted to be offering G4 to Comcast customers as well as making this channel available to cable and satellite distributors nationwide.”
Created by founder and c.e.o. Charles Hirschhorn, the former president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation, G4’s core management team includes E! veterans Debra Green, c.e.o.; Dale Hopkins, senior v.p. of affiliate and ad sales and Julie Fields, v.p. and creative director; MTV veteran Vinnie Longobardo, senior v.p. of programming; All Games Network founder Scot Rubin, v.p. Internet and program editorial; former Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Imagesoft executive Tina Kowalewski, director, program development; and former editor of Next Generation magazine Tom Russo, director, program development.
“By our design, G4 will complement the established magazines and Web sites that are currently covering the video game industry. We’re not going to compete with them,” said Hirschhorn. “We’ll appeal to both the hardcore gamers that have made the industry what it is today, a $20 billion worldwide industry, as well as the more casual and mainstream gamers who may catch on to gaming through our channel. The bigger our audience gets, the more chance there is to grow the video game audience.”
“When we launched E!, people were skeptical that there was an audience for a 24-hour entertainment channel, but people wanted to read about celebrities and watch shows about them on TV,” said Green. “Today, you have Food channels and Golf channels…there’s something for everyone except the video game enthusiast.”
G4 has begun discussions with advertisers, both game publishers and broader companies that covet the key video game demographic, which has a large disposable income and is willing to spend it. Over 145 million Americans play video games and the next five-year cycle of console video games is expected to penetrate as many as 50% of U.S. households. With Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo spending hundreds of millions of dollars to market Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube and big video game publishers with hefty marketing budgets, G4 has a built-in advertising draw from the burgeoning gaming industry.
“G4 gives us a legitimate, focused TV vehicle not only to use from an editorial perspective, but also for marketing our games,” said Tom Richardson, a director of marketing for Infogrames. “In order to sell our video games to a TV audience, we need to reach consumers who own console systems. Traditional TV marketing is hit or miss in reaching these consumers, but G4 will almost guarantee us the audience we’re looking for with our game advertising.”
”We are moving towards an exciting era in our industry and the timing has never been better for a dedicated video game television network,” said Peter Moore, president and c.o.o. of Sega of America. “We believe that G4 Media can offer a unique opportunity to connect video game companies and gamers with new and innovative programming and entertainment.”
“Activision's strategy for success is to continue developing top-quality games based on well-known brands for multiple gaming platforms,” said Robert Kotick, chairman and c.e.o., Activision. “As the demographic audience for games continues to expand, G4 will be a great vehicle for us to gain mass-market exposure for our brands.”
In addition to the launch of G4Media.com today, G4TV.com will launch in April, opening up numerous opportunities for interactive TV experiences.
“Our audience is very tech savvy and is used to communicating via the Internet while watching TV,” said Hirschhorn.