Creator / G4TV

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"...As people are starting to wonder why there isn't a station about video games and why there really now is one less show about video games that are out there...When no one watches, things get cancelled."
Adam Sessler, on the demise of X-Play and G4.

G4, also known as G4TV, was a television network known for two things: a focus on video games and geek culture, and an infamous case of network decay. The network went through some serious growing pains in trying to find an audience and gain ratings and advertisers. In the end, G4 was a failed exercise in Old Media Playing Catch-Up in television channel form; the network's demise became one of the most tragic cable stories since FNN (the Financial News Network) was sold for parts to CNBC in 1992.

The Comcast-owned channel was launched in April 2002 by Charles Hirschhorn. The lineup entirely consisted of gaming-related shows such as Arena (a multi-player gaming competition show), G4TV.com (an interactive talk show connected with the website), Cheat! (a show dedicated to cheat codes and walkthroughs; think GameFAQs on TV), and reruns of Starcade. The channel struggled to find viewers and get into more homes since it was not available on numerous cable and satellite providers. In 2004, Comcast bought out TechTV (a low-rated but beloved network that focused on computers and technology), then merged the two networks into G4TechTV, a move which gave G4 all of TechTV's channel slots on the various cable carriers. The TechTV branding was flushed out in less than a year's time, with only X-Play (and its hosts), The Screen Savers (which would later become Attack of the Show!), and Unscrewed with Martin Sargent surviving the merger. The death of TechTV alienated the network's fans—who were, ironically enough, part of the audience that G4 had tried to reach.

Neal Tiles became G4's network president in 2005, and he immediately tried to broaden the channel's scope into a general male-oriented channel in the vein of Spike TV. During his time in charge, G4 obtained more off-network reruns—including the much-maligned Cops and Cheaters—to fill schedule time. This was also the time in which Attack of the Show! brought on Olivia Munn as a co-host and became an Internet/pop/geek culture sensation, while X-Play began to cover all of video game culture. Code Monkeys, a cartoon that parodied 1980s video game culture, became a Cult Classic amongst the G4 fanbase. And Ninja Warrior became the network's highest-rated show. Despite the growing fanbase, the network still had issues behind the scenes. Layoffs continued as a cost-cutting measure and the G4 studios were relocated to the same building as E! and the Style Network (and downsized, to boot). In November 2010, DirecTV dropped G4 as a whole, justifying the move by pointing at the network's low ratings.

In 2012, Comcast finalized a merger with NBCUniversal, and G4 gained a new network president in Adam Stotsky, who came in with plans to completely rebrand the channel. Long-time G4 personalities Adam Sessler (X-Play) and Kevin Periera (Attack of the Show) left the network admist the rumors of rebranding. (Munn had left in 2010 to pursue what would become a successful acting career.) Those two flagship shows were cancelled; they ended their runs on the 23rd of January 2013, which ended all G4 studio programming. Stotsky planned to rebrand G4 as "The Esquire Network" as part of a partnership with pop culture magazine Esquire. When the time came for the network's re-launch, G4 was replaced with...nothing! Absolutely nothing!

NBCUniversal originally set the Esquire Network's initial launch date on April 22, 2013. A lack of original programming forced a delay to September 2013. The entire re-brand strategy changed when NBCUniversal decided to replace Style Network instead—Style had broader carriage than G4, and it was too similar to NBCU's other two women-focused networks (E! and Oxygen). Nielsen could not measure the initial ratings for the Esquire Network because said ratings were too low to meet a "minimum reporting standard". The low ratings continued, and three major television providers (Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse, and DirecTV) dropped Esquire in late 2016. NBCU announced in 2017 that it would shutter the network and relaunch it as a digital-only platform on Esquire's website; Esquire's last broadcast day was June 28.

Comcast removed G4 from all Comcast systems starting in January 2014, following the lead of the several cable providers that had dropped it earlier. Throughout 2013 and 2014, only AT&T U-Verse and a few other small cable providers carried the channel to fulfill contracts with Comcast and NBC—right up to the last minute of the 31st of December 2014. G4's last hours consisted of the five-part The Top 100 Video Games of All Time special and the first episode of X-Play. The network signed off with a game of Pong (referencing when G4 launched with all-week Pong games) that slowly shrunk and filled with a grey color, followed by a sound clip of Kevin Pereira shouting "I'M AT COMIC-CON!!!" (a possible allusion to G4 dying and going to "nerd heaven") as the dot shut off like an analog TV alongside Donkey Kong's death bloops from the Atari 2600 and the Game Boy start-up chime. You can see G4's symbolic "Game Over" for yourself on YouTube.

On August 31, 2017, the Canadian version of G4 was finally shut down, ending a good three years after the U.S. channel shuttered thus completely removing any trace of G4 from the airwaves. G4TV.com still exists, but only as a skeleton portal that hosts the network schedule, a freemium game portal, and the network's now-dormant social media presence. Syfy's freemium gaming website started a news and videos section with the G4 branding, presumably so NBCU could retain the trademarks.

American Ninja Warrior is the sole surviving G4 original series. The show moved to NBC before G4's rebranding and ultimate demise. That show is no longer produced by G4's quasi-parent company, G4 Media, which now exists only to maintain the TechTV and G4 program libraries. In 2017, Disney XD launched their D/XP block with content produced by former X-Play producer Wade Beckett and hosts Kevin Pereira (who produces The Attack, a Spiritual Successor to Attack of the Show!) and Blair Herter. Several former X-Play staff created and produce Bits and Bytes over on Facebook.

Alternative Title(s): G 4

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