The rebirthed G4 TV is kicking off a weekly content series — dubbed “B4G4” — to get fan feedback on the programming ahead of the gaming network’s official summer 2021 bow.
G4, which is being revived under the auspices of Comcast’s Spectacor sports unit, will publish content under the B4G4 (“before G4”) banner on its YouTube and Twitch channels. Execs say the pre-release strategy will let them experiment with several formats, including original sketch comedy, game reviews, talent collaborations, and music and esports parodies. G4 will encourage fans to chime in on what they like — and don’t like — on the official Reddit r/g4tv forum.
In the B4G4 mix will be elements of the daily variety/news show “Attack of the Show!” and game-reviews show “X-Play,” two of G4’s most popular original series. Those are both returning to the network’s programming slate at launch, the net confirmed on social channels Thursday. Those will be “reimagined for a new audience” with new interactivity features, said Kevin Sabbe, G4’s head of content.
“We want to get feedback from the community from the get-go,” said Sabbe, who also serves as chief content officer for Spectacor Gaming. “It’s very developmental and experimental, designed to be iterative.”
The talent lineup, including which G4 alums may be returning for “Attack of the Show!” and “X-Play,” is still in flux. Last fall, G4 announced WWE star Xavier Woods, aka Austin Creed, as its first talent signing, as part of a charity special featuring a reunion of former hosts. In addition, former “X-Play” co-host Adam Sessler has participated in G4’s prelaunch content.
Sabbe promised that other “familiar faces” will be coming back to G4 alongside new cast members. Added Blair Herter, G4’s VP of brand, “We’re like ‘SNL’ — it’s the faces you know and the faces you have yet to discover.”
In the B4G4 launch video Friday, G4 introduced a new character: Jerry Excel, the network’s fictional “interim CEO,” played by YouTube comedian Gus Johnson. Jerry will pop up intermittently over the next several months, serving as a “mouthpiece for feedback from the audience,” Sabbe said. (Watch the video above or at this link.)
B4G4 also will tie into the #G4NeedsTalent campaign launched last September, giving superfans the chance to audition through the content series, both as on-camera hosts and in off-camera producing and writing roles. Sabbe said the recruiting effort resulted in applications that numbered in the “low thousands.”
“When we say this is for gamers, by gamers — this is truly doing that,” Sabbe said. “We’re crowdsourcing employees.”
When Comcast Spectacor first greenlit the reboot of G4, transferring the dormant brand from the vaults of corporate cousin NBCUniversal, the plans were set early on to build the content slate collaboratively with G4’s followers. “The idea of building a content platform and network without the feedback of the audience… doesn’t make sense in 2021,” said Herter, who worked at G4 from 2007-12 as a co-host on “Attack of the Show!” and “X-Play.”
G4 first teased the relaunch last July of the network, which launched as a cable channel in 2002 before NBCU shut it down in 2014. A rep said G4 has hired a GM but declined to identify who that is. Meanwhile, G4 says the programming will be distributed on “digital and linear channels” but it’s unclear whether that will include a slot on pay TV.
“We’re going to be everywhere our audience is. It’s not one offering that lives in every place,” Sabbe said. “We’re in deep discussions on distribution… We’re treating every single possible touchpoint as a content portal.”
G4 is based in Los Angeles and currently has 40-plus employees. Comcast Spectacor is building a studio facility for G4 in Burbank, Calif. (separate from the NBC campus). The facility is set to be operational by mid-2021 and will include two sound stages, plus a gathering space for gamers and streamers. “It’s like a clubhouse,” said Sabbe.
As for why G4 is housed under Spectacor, Comcast’s sports and esports division, rather than with NBCU, Sabbe said that Spectacor is “the heartbeat of gaming at the company.” Spectacor owns the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and Philly’s Wells Fargo Center arena, but it’s also home to esports team Philadelphia Fusion, which competes in Blizzard’s Overwatch League.