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Dear readers, we are gathered here today to remember the brief and troubled life of G4, Comcast’s twice-failed attempt at creating a television channel for gamers.
G4 shut down over the weekend less than a year after its reboot last November. The news follows mass layoffs and the departure of president Russell Arons in August.
Comcast Spectacor, the Comcast division based in Philadelphia that ran G4, said the network was killed because it couldn’t hold gamers’ attention.
As it currently stands, G4’s streams are officially postponed. Sources close to the network said G4’s Los Angeles offices will be going up for lease soon.
It does, however, appear that G4’s email servers are already offline: dot.LA’s press inquiries bounced back. Some employees of G4 found out they lost their jobs through Twitter, and were reportedly immediately locked out of their company Slack and email accounts. Roughly 45 employees were laid off, Comcast Spectacor confirmed.
The news of G4’s shuttering comes nearly a year after chief revenue officer Josh Cella told dot.LA, “It’s not going to take us long to be profitable.” Before she quit, Arons told dot.LA she estimated G4’s cable channel would reach 70 million households nationwide.
Per the same Washington Post report, part of what could have caused G4’s death was its inability to budget for high-profile creators, some of whom asked for day rates of up to $30,000. It was a vicious cycle; without big names G4 couldn’t attract an audience, but without an audience it didn’t have the revenue to court the very audience that could keep it alive.
While G4 failed at first because it was too niche, this second time around it folded because it failed to be unique enough. The gaming network was first launched in 2002 by Dish Network and NBCUniversal. Originally the brainchild of former Disney president Charles Hirschhorn, G4 was a Comcast property that was eventually licensed out to Hearst Corp. But by 2014, low ratings caused cable providers to start dropping the channel and in December 2014 G4 died its first death.
In November 2021 Comcast executives (particularly Comcast CEO Brian Roberts’ son, Tucker Roberts) thought rebooting G4 would be an easy way to surf the wave of interest and cash flowing into a pandemic-fueled gaming boom. But ironically, the company that gave the channel rebirth also helped kill it by insisting on draining resources into integrations with its cable networks that no gamer was going to watch.
Because of the Comcast connection, G4 had to broadcast on cable. Even though it was unlikely that any gamers were tuned in to cable channels on Verizon FIOS, Xfinity or Cox. And though the network was also broadcast on platforms gamers usually congregate on, including YouTube and Twitch, the network failed to keep their attention.
When we reported on the reboot last fall we noted G4 had about 520,000 subscribers on both platforms; after news of the shutdown,that number is around 311,000 – which pales in comparison to top game streamers like xQc who currently boasts 11.3 million followers on Twitch.
There were also some harbingers of G4’s demise. Last month the network laid off some 20-30 staffers, and several anonymous workers told Kotaku the company’s managers were “looking for cost savings wherever possible” to stave off the impending shutdown. Sources also claimed new boss Joe Marsh, an executive for Comcast, was eager to trim the budget.
Still, G4 is not the only company to learn the hard way that a TV channel for gamers just won’t take off. Playa Vista-based VENN – the gaming streaming channel that launched last August with at least $43 million behind it and the backing of the Kroneke family – is also falling on tough times. VENN furloughed nearly half its 15-person staff last August and stealthily relocated to Burbank in a bid to cut costs before going bust in May.
The reaction from gamers was pretty devoid of sympathy for G4. As one snarky Reddit user put it, “at least it outlived Quibi by one month.” — Samson Amore
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Join Us! dot.LA Summit Oct. 20-21st
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