Esquire to Take Over Style Network as Bonnie Hammer Revamps NBCU Cable Nets

Bonnie Hammer NBCU Cable Relaignment
Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

A top NBCU programmer makes her first big move since gaining oversight of the company's cable portfolio

NBCUniversal, in a tacit acknowledgement the portfolio of cable networks it has amassed since the company was taken over by Comcast in 2011 had grown unwieldy, moved unexpectedly Monday to realign the TV outlets and the executives who run them.

The boldest move turned out to be scrapping plans to rebrand G4 as the Esquire Network, instead selecting Style Network as the NBCU cabler that will receive the Esquire treatment.

In an internal memo addressed to staff, Bonnie Hammer, the head of NBCU’s cable-programming operations, said the company would eliminate its female-skewing Style network, and gave broader responsibilities to Jeff Wachtel, currently co-chief of USA Network; Frances Berwick, currently head of Bravo; and Chris McCumber, who will going forward have sole oversight over USA.

The move could result in some staff reductions among personnel at Style, though NBCU is expected to try and help employees find other positions within the company.

“Just because something is working today doesn’t mean it will work forever,” Hammer said in the memo. “The biggest challenge to thriving in the marketplace is identifying the strategic moves that will keep us ahead of the competition.”

As part of the Comcast deal, NBCU gained networks like E!, Style and G4. But the company already had female-skewing Oxygen and Bravo, not to mention a passel of developing outlets like Chiller and Cloo that are not in the top-tier of networks sought out by advertisers and subscribers. This past spring, total-viewership ratings at USA and E! experienced some decline. With all of that in the background, it’s clear Hammer could not let things continue without tweaking.

NBCU had initially selected G4 as the net to be transformed into Esquire Network, an upscale cable offering for younger male demos. G4 struggled with ratings and a consistent brand identity, and faced potential network overhauls in the past, with the WWE even eying the channel as a potential network.

Style Network, also ranking at the lower end of NBCU’s cable ratings spectrum, faced a different challenge than G4: its tone, programming, and even celeb faces virtually mirror content seen on its sister nets, but with lower viewership. “Giuliana and Bill,” for example, is one of Style’s most-watched programs, though the telecasts draw less than 700,000 viewers, and the stars of the show established themselves on NBCU cabler E!

The maneuvers — both to reorient the Esquire launch, and to reorganize the NBCU exec ranks — represent Hammer’s first large-scale reorganization of the company’s cable assets since gaining sole oversight of the properties in February. Previously, Hammer ran USA, SyFy and the company’s other general-entertainment outlets, while Lauren Zalaznick supervised Bravo, Oxygen and the networks skewing more toward female consumers. Zalaznick has since moved into a different role overseeing emerging technology and monetizing digital assets.

Overall, the victim of Hammer’s reorganization plans is Style, a female-skewing outlet that now appears redundant given the traction Bravo, E! and, to a lesser extent, Oxygen have with consumers.

“With Bravo, E! and Oxygen, we offer unique takes on popular culture for an ever-broadening audience, including the all-important female demo,” Hammer said. “In pursuit of that same demo, Style presents brand overlap within our portfolio.”

With that in mind, Hammer is reversing some longstanding plans. Esquire was set to debut September 23, in the process replacing G4. Now, G4 will stay, while Esquire replaces Style.

The move indicates NBCU needs more networks aimed more fully at a male audience, though as recently as June, NBCU executives indicated the audience for G4 – interested in gaming, technology and other such stuff – had a short attention span that would not be found in the slightly older, wealthier target for Esquire.

Now NBCU may have to alter its G4 strategy for the network that has already canceled one of its flagship series, “Attack of the Show” and depends heavily on reruns of skeins like “Cops” and “Cheaters.” Immediate programming changes are not likely.

Wachtel has been elevated to the newly created position of President and Chief Content Officer, NBCU Cable Entertainment, and will begin to develop original programming across the company’s cable-network holdings. Berwick will gain responsibility for Oxygen, prompting the departure of president Jason Klarman. McCumber, who has worked in tandem with Wachtel for years in building USA series like “Psych,” “Burn Notice” and “Royal Pains,” will now oversee what is arguably the company’s flagship network – despite the broader recognition of the NBC broadcast outlet – on his own.

Hammer said Salaam Coleman-Smith, president of Style Media, would remain with NBCU. Adam Stotsky, general manager of Esquire, and currently supervisor of G4, will retain oversight of both networks.

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  1. Michelle Williams says:

    THIS REALLY SUCKS!!! I LOVE WATCHING MY STYLE NETWORK CHANNEL, JERSEYLISCIOUS, BIG RICH TEXAS, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WOMAN THINKING?????? THIS MOVE IS JUST UNACCEPTABLE! I WILL NEVER WATCH ESQUIRE AND I THINK IT’S A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME, I BRIEFLY TURNED ON THE OTHER NIGHT AND THEY WERE PLAYING SHIT FROM THE 80’S. WE NEED TO PROTEST THIS LADIES AND GET STYLE BACK ASAP!!!!

  2. Jill says:

    Dummest move ever. I was looking forward to the new seasons of Jerseylicious and Big Rich Texas, now they are gone? This lady is a moron, I Hope she gets fired. She chose men over woman? Maybe she is a man incognito? She has ugly wrinkled muscles so ya never know.
    I dont know any man that will watch Esquire, its a waste of a channel, more woman watch TV shows than men! It’s a fact, at least air these shows on Esquire, then we will watch that channel, but otherwise its garbage and will fail…hopefully you will fail too, oh but wait, you already did…Idiot

  3. Marisa says:

    “Just because something is working today doesn’t mean it will work forever,” Hammer said in the memo. “The biggest challenge to thriving in the marketplace is identifying the strategic moves that will keep us ahead of the competition.” And with that statement, she screwed over staff and viewers simultaneously. Way to go.

  4. Marisa says:

    So for your first big move, you decide to alienate your female viewers. Because after all they have other female oriented networks. So we’ve already got their money, right? This just proves how out of touch you are. The Style Network was my go to network, which I watched almost every night, and if I can’t have Style, then I will not be watching your other channels either. Way to shatter your viewers faith and lose us FAST.

  5. Connie Platt says:

    Its been taken off every cable channel and direct tv

  6. Debra says:

    Ridiculous move! I will not ever watch esquire or anyone in my family!!! Huge mistake if you don’t bring back our Style shows! So mad at this!! Hope you fail now!!!!

  7. Tara King says:

    A network that has good family tv and you take it off. Shame on you! Maybe it’s because you aren’t getting enough nutrition. I need to find another cable company that has STYLE!!

  8. Mitzi Cater says:

    I am very very upset that the style channel is being taken off of Comcast!! I may switch cable companies! Upset!!

  9. BG says:

    Bonnie “hammer” maybe your boss should give you the “axe” for this idiotic move. You should always remember from business 101: the more elevated you are, the harder the fall. Simple physics really, you should have at the very LEAST taken a viewership poll, had an online discussion, or simply provided the loyal viewers with enough respect to be made aware of the situation. The reason this demographic is not going to work is because of the demographic you chose! These guys you are trying to tap into, are too busy in their own lives finishing up their degrees, planning partnerships, pulling overtime hours at their firms etc. they will not care to put their lives on hold to watch your programming. You have made a very serious mistake. The reason this demo has not been tapped into yet, is because they refuse to be tapped into. With that said, the young female demo……..who have much STYLE, were tapped into with the style network. It was a fun, carefree, vibrant channel that gave the viewers a chance to forget about the chaos in their own lives. Congrats, Hammer, you’ve managed to single handedly shatter these women’s faith in network television and set the woman’s movement back 20 years. You will now be forever known as the woman who turned on her own, for an opportunity to make more money. You will fail.

  10. Brianna says:

    I’m so mad b/c I was super hyped on Jerseylicious coming back & now got nothing to look forward to!! It’s stupid how they chose style network they’re perfectly fine .. G4 could’ve used a lift tho like they already show more men’s type of shows& movies. I wouldn’t care if it was G4 cuz directTV removed them for contract reasons. But I can see why they chose style cuz of the views they already have but if they’re not allowing the other show like jerseylicious in bravo like they already have their reruns big rich Texas should go there.. I dont know but esquire is gonna end up like G4 just saying

  11. Kathy Post says:

    This was the stupidist move a company could make. Really??? Save G4 over. Style??? Did you check out the viewership on Style. I have watched the majority of the shows for the past few years faithfully. I NEVER WATCHED A SINGLE SHOW ON G4!!!!! Miss Hammer obviously didn’t do her homework or she would have stayed with the original plan of converting G4 to Esquire Network instead of wiping out Style. I am just shocked by these developments. I hope NBCU will reevaluate their decision and bring Style back. Moving only a couple of shows is not realistic to me. I just don’t get Miss Hammer’s logic here.

  12. Lady leah says:

    Brilliant move! NOT! Let’s see how this change works out for ya Ms. Hammer. It was also so kind of you to let loyal viewers know about the change. I was looking for Hot Listings for two weeks and couldn’t figure out what was going on. So kind of you to treat your CUSTOMERS like they matter. If you made such a “bold move” then why don’t you make a “bold move” that would be appreciated instead like revamping Bravo. Get rid of Real Housewives of New Jersey and put Jerseylicious in it’s spot. RHoNJ was driven into the ground and completely ruined by a so called “bold move” with the new cast members who started season three. Bravo took a ratings monster and turned it into a mess. Turned off a LOT of people but of course the network doesn’t care what their viewers think or want. I sincerely doubt Esquire will do as well as Style did, whether Style was at the bottom or not. Time will tell. In the meantime get ready to lose a lot of loyal support.

  13. JoLynn Stoker says:

    Do NOT like this new change. Style was a channel I loved to watch & will miss it! Guess I’ll take it off my cable pkg. & put Westerns in. Why not get input before changing something good??

  14. Alejandra says:

    This Really Blows!! I really enjoyed watching Style I don’t think men are going to be watching this at all! at leas let us STYLE viewers know where you are moving our shows to!. I was excited for Big Rich Texas and Jerseylicious. I love watching Gulliana and Bill as well as Tia and Tamara! So Sad that the Esquire took over! Please Bring back Style!

  15. Gturn62 says:

    This really ticks me off!! As if men are going to watch this channel–NOT! I certainly won’t be. Give us back our Style channel.

  16. Kate says:

    Terrible news! losing Style will make me rethink TV watching in general. May be time to give up and go on-line for TV watching…..

  17. Sandra says:

    This is very disappointing at least Esquire should of kept some of the popular shows that were on the style network. Please advise if other channels picked up any of the shows . Esquire is more for the male viewers and Style was all woman. Sad to say I won’t be watching your channel

  18. mary says:

    hate the new line up looks like they lost me loved bill and Juliana and hot Miami listings all gone not happy at all

  19. Kathy Bernardi says:

    Not happy at all with the change. At least on the STYLE Network there were many shows I watched each and every week and the reruns. So far what I have seen on this new Esquire is just GARBAGE!!!!! Will NEVER, EVER, watch this channel….

  20. Maria Marino says:

    This is a mega fail on their part. #MassiveFail to understand their demographics. You are not going to get 1/3 of the viewership Style had. Definitely going to boycott this channel!

  21. Jack McIntosh says:

    So,they fired all the people in front & behind the camera on G4 to make way for Esquire Network,and now it turns out they’re not even use G4 as the channel for it?!?! #MassiveFail

  22. Lynn says:

    That’s crap!! Style network is about all I watch! I was so excited for Jerseylicious and Big Rich Texas premiers on October 6!! All my favorite shows are on there!! Theres so many other crappy channels they could’ve replaced!!! So disappointed!!!

  23. Maria says:

    I think Jerseylicious gets more viewers than Guilianna & Bill. Where will they go???

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