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RETRO REPLAY

Back from the dead, G4TV looks to cash in on the gaming craze it helped create

Gamers focus during a gaming competition
REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Gamers focus during a gaming competition.
  • Adario Strange
By Adario Strange

Media & entertainment reporter

Published

When video gaming television network G4TV shuttered its broadcast doors back in 2014, a part of gamer history winked off, presumably never to be seen again. But in the wake of the rise of esports, as well as Twitch and YouTube as destinations for streaming games, Comcast Spectacor, the esports and live sports division of Comcast, decided it was time to revive the brand many gamers grew up with in the early 2000s. 

The new version of the network, launching on Nov. 16, will be available to viewers on Verizon Fios, Xfinity TV, and Cox cable TV, as well as on Twitch (via a commercial partnership) and on YouTube. And rather than relaunching the network with a brand new approach, logo, and tone, the producers have decided to lean into the current obsession with retro-everything. The new version of the network has already brought back its familiar irony-laced interstitials via Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. 

The rebooted G4TV will feature familiar shows and new faces from Twitch and YouTube

And, along with the recognizable flavor of the aughts, G4 has also resurrected original programs like Attack of the Show (geek-focused entertainment news, reviews, and skits) and X-Play (gaming news and reviews), as well as fan-favorite hosts Kevin Pereira and Adam Sessler. But this venture will also embrace social media personalities. The newer cast members are mostly heavyweight YouTube and Twitch influencers and streamers including Will Neff, Fiona Nova, Kassem “Kassem G” Gharaibeh, and Gina Darling.

At its peak, G4TV catered mostly to young men 18 to 34-years old—usually a demographic sweet spot. But despite being available to 62 million viewers, the network’s own president at the time indicated it had a more cult-like interest of single-digit-millions viewership. Ultimately, the network, which was launched in 2002 by NBCUniversal (now owned by Comcast), was a bit ahead of its time, and eventually petered out, not long after the launch of Twitch (now owned by Amazon) in 2011. Today, the gamer-focused Twitch has an average of 30 million daily visitors and 7 million unique creators generating content on the platform.

This attempt by G4 to compete in the space it pioneered is perfectly timed given the rise of esports. But G4 will also be fighting for the eyeballs of 2.1 billion YouTube users as well as all the new streaming media being pushed out daily by the likes Netflix (itself now a game studio) and others.

One of the primary questions yet to be answered is: Was G4TV really too early, or just off the mark in its overall approach? Comcast isn’t renowned for its innovation and embrace of the gaming space (despite its esports interests in T1 Entertainment and Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion), so this is another big gamble on a bet that didn’t pay off before. 

Still, with newly appointed G4 president Russell Arons—a veteran of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment & Electronic Arts—at the helm, the enterprise is in steady and experienced hands. Add to that a platform-agnostic embrace of the current online gaming content leaders in Twitch and YouTube, and this revamp of gaming’s history has an even chance to turn into a money machine for Comcast and possibly become a new home to old and new gamers alike. 

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