Esquire Network Preview: New Channel Tries to Scratch a Niche

Esquire Network Preview: Channel struggles to

Esquire might need to expand into TV, but do guys need the branded channel?

Lord knows magazines need to creatively exploit new revenue streams, but why viewers need an Esquire network remains a mystery. Having finally settled on a Comcast channel to displace (Style, we hardly knew ye), the new venture launches Sept. 23, with a variety of lifestyle-oriented programming, ostensibly aimed at men. Yet a preview suggests the hipster vibe speaks to an audience that should be too cool to watch most of this stuff, or too male to commit to much other than sports, manly men in dirty jobs and the occasional gritty drama. Frankly, if a magazine-derived, male-tilted network is going to succeed, put your money on Maxim.

Most of the series previewed (either in full or promotional form) could easily be found on the Travel Channel, a la “The Getaway” (pictured), in which a different celebrity each week spends a weekend eating and drinking his or her way through some fabulous locale. Others, like “Knife Fight,” in which two chefs square off, have an amped-up “Iron Chef”-like feel; or “Brew Dogs,” which raises the question of just how devoted men are to the subject of micro-beers.

“Boundless,” meanwhile, features a couple of Canadian buddies subjecting themselves to intense physical challenges (the Hawaii installment contains a lot of vomiting over the side of a boat), while the most thematically interesting show previewed, “White Collar Brawlers,” is also the most potentially disturbing: A “Fight Club”-like conceit, in which office mates train and eventually box against each other.

Granted, TV has a lot of putting-people-through-physical-ordeal shows, but most don’t culminate in pummeling the person who regularly sits in the cubicle next to you. That said, it’s one of the few programs in the opening Esquire portfolio that look provocative enough to generate some buzz.

Esquire will have access to lots of NBC Universal reruns (“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Burn Notice”) to augment its original efforts, but none of that answers the burning question of whether the channel’s niche is deep or well-defined enough to gain the necessary toehold with viewers.

As Variety‘s Brian Steinberg cogently suggested several months back, “Guys have always hunted and gathered. If I want to see someone gorge on barbecue, I can find ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.’ If I want sports, I’ve got umpteen options. Do I need everything on one network?”

Put another way, whatever equity resides in the Esquire brand, there’s a fundamental difference between wanting to read an article about a topic and actually sitting through a TV show devoted to it, as efforts to translate other magazines have discovered.

“It’s very bold, and it’s very confident,” Ilan Hall, a past winner of “Top Chef” and the proprietor of the restaurant in “Knife Fight,” says by way of describing a dish — as only a true foodie could appreciate — during the show’s Sept. 24 premiere.

Based strictly on this preview, Esquire gives off the impression that it might be a little too confident — and from a programming perspective, not bold enough.

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  1. Spencer says:

    I know nothing to the Style network. But this used to be the G4 channel, a network that displayed the passion for gaming, technology, and nerd love. Slowly it began to decay into a shell of it’s former self, yet nerds could still cling on to shows like X Play and Attack of the Show. Then it was bought out by E! and everything fell into a toxic pit. The CEO claimed that G4 was glorified by an “undeserving audience.” This is what paved the way to this pile you see right here. Esquire: specifically marketed towards metrosexual men. That’s really what they said. Now people are waiting to watch the network drown in it’s own sorrow.

  2. Jessica says:

    This is BULL! Where is my Style network?! Saturdays are my day off and I love being able to sit home and watch the Style channel and now it’s gone! Get rid of this Esquire crap and get me my Style network back! I pay extra on directv just for this channel..bring Style back!!!

  3. kelli says:

    I Want my STYLE NETWORK back! I am a stay at home mom/ designer stylist. That is one of my very few adult channels that I can watch with my daughter. I love Tia and Tamar, Guilliana and Bill, How Do I Look, Tabathas Salon Takeover, etc. I WANT MY STYLE CHANNEL BACK!!!!!! Most men work during the day, and watch ESPN, NFL network, Foxsports, or newschannels. Esquire network needs find another channel and bring back Style!!!! PS…… Women who watch this channel is around 25%, and only about 10% of men even care. Go away Esquire!!!

  4. esquire demo guy feeling confused says:

    i went to check out the schedule, and i have no idea who this channel is for. sex and the city marathons? project runway? as a 30 something straight male that would assume he’s in esquire’s sweet spot from reading the mag, they have completely missed the mark. and no real digital outlets? do these people not realize those of us with disposable income and hectic schedules are done with linear only schedules?

    this is why cable is failing. more channels offering nothing of interest and not meeting my device and scheduling demands.

    this is going to be a quick failure

    • kelli says:

      I Want my STYLE NETWORK back! I am a stay at home mom/ designer stylist. That is one of my very few adult channels that I can watch with my daughter. I love Tia and Tamar, Guilliana and Bill, How Do I Look, Tabathas Salon Takeover, etc. I WANT MY STYLE CHANNEL BACK!!!!!! Most men work during the day, and watch ESPN, NFL network, Foxsports, or newschannels. Esquire network needs find another channel and bring back Style!!!! PS…… Women who watch this channel is around 25%, and only about 10% of men even care. Go away Esquire!!!

    • I understand your worry but it’s not actually as bad as it sounds. I believe Esquire has taken over the channel which was formerly the style channel, they have to honor the contracts of those shows for a period of time. Soon the girly shows will be phased out and the programming will be much more in line with what you were originally expecting.

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