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Video Games Becoming Television Fare

11 Dec, 2003 By: John Gaudiosi

A year after Comcast launched its 24-hour video game channel, G4, which reaches 10 million homes, it has some serious competition. Established cable channels like Spike TV, MTV and Game Show Network are turning to video game programming. With the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demographic tuning out this fall, according to Nielsen -- the result of playing video games and watching DVD movies -- cable channels are hoping that video game-themed TV programming will lure these viewers.

And that sort of programming can only serve to help drive greater traffic into retailers selling and renting video games.

SpikeTV's first Video Game Awards (VGAs) show, hosted by David Spade in Las Vegas, was the first step in “the network for men's” master plan for video game programming. Kevin Kay, EVP of programming and production at SpikeTV, has several new shows for 2004 that will incorporate video games.

“We want to plant the flag with male gamers with the VGAs,” said Kay. “If you want to see programming about video games, come to SpikeTV.”

SpikeTV's 87 million homes will likely get a full two-hour block of video game programming by late next year, if all goes according to Kay's plans. In addition to a weekly“Entertainment Tonight”-style show, Kay said the network has optioned a video game that ships next Christmas and will turn it into a half-hour adventure series. A half-hour comedy pilot from G-Net is also in the works. The show will incorporate video game footage from a variety of games into a weekly comedy. Kay also said that an episode of “Spike 52,” which looks at the top 52 of a given topic, as voted by viewers online, will focus on the top 52 video games of all time.

Game Show Network, which reaches more than 52 million homes, launched a two-hour block of video game programming in October. The channel airs two episodes of “Game Sauce” and one episode of “Gamer.tv” every Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. Video games are a way for the aging channel to attract the younger demographic that advertisers covet.

MTV is also getting its game on. The channel reportedly has five video game shows in the pipeline, including a comedy show from G-Net. With video games serving as the launching pad for new music groups these days, this merger of games and music programming makes sense.

Fox is the first of the big networks to look at video games. The national network signed Will Wright to a first-look deal last year for original TV projects. The creator of “The Sims,” the best selling video game franchise, will develop show ideas for the network. Separately, a TV show based on “The Sims” is still reportedly in the works at a separate production studio.

UPN will air six episodes of “Game Over” beginning in March 2004. The half-hour computer-generated comedy is set within the video game universe and features the voice of Lucy Liu.

This crop of new video game programming will only raise awareness to an even larger demographic of consumers, which is a win-win for retailers and rentailers who stock video games.

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