G4 Merger Interview

Article

posted 4/9/2004 by The GN Staff
other articles by The GN Staff
As many of you have heard Comcast (the owner of G4) recently purchased TechTV and they are planning to merge the two networks later this year. Since GN staffers tend to watch way to much of both networks we contacted them to see if we could get an interview about the merger. Luckily we were able to set something up to talk to David Shane, a spokesman for the company. Below is the trascription of that interview.

GamingNexus: Can you walk us through how the merger came about? How long has the idea of merging the two been floating around?
David Shane: The idea for the merger has been out there for over a year. It first began when Comcast approached TechTV about merging the channel with G4 and shortly after that TechTV well Vulcan rather, the owner of TechTV, announced they were going to sell the channel and they were looking for a buyer. And it’s been a long negotiating process, it’s been a complicated process but it just concluded last week. We are excited about merging the two channels and we’re excited about bringing together programming tha very complementary and programming that targets a very similar demo which is basically men 12 to 34 years old.

GamingNexus: Will the new network retain the G4 name and logos or will there be new branding elements?
David Shane: We are in a period right now called a quiet regulatory review period when the government takes a look and kind of blesses the merger. Typically it lasts 30-45 days. We anticipate everything to go very smoothly and we don’t anticipate any problems. But during this period we are looking at the TechTV name and the G4 name and thinking about maybe some combination of both. We are still in the process of working that out and working out our overall branding campaign so it’s something that we’ll rollout slowly after the close of regulatory review

GamingNexus: Will the focus of the network be taken off of video games, leaving a more tech-oriented network or will there be some kind of hybrid?
David Shane: G4 has been very successful with its focus on video games and we’re going to continue that core video game focus although I do think you are going to see the network broaden its focus a bit. So where we might have been a little more tightly focused on video games, we are going to take into account the video game lifestyle more now. So lifestyle programming that will relate to video games would be something that we focus on. To give you one example, it’s interesting I think. When you look at TechTV, their highest rated show is X-Play, the show based on video games, so there is a lot of synergy between the two channels. But at the end of the day our core focus will be a video game network tapping into that market. The recent figures I read were that it’s an 11 billion dollar business just in the US and 145 million Americans are gamers and that’s the network we are tapping into.

GamingNexus: Has there been a final determination of which shows will make the transition to and which ones will be phased out or is that still under review?
David Shane: We are going there right now. Our management team is meeting with the management team in San Fran and the people at TechTV have been terrific and we are working right now to evaluate shows and figure out which shows will make the transition. So there are some naturals like X-play that fit in very well and as far as other shows at TechTV we are taking a look. But you will see a network that’s a good combination of the two.

GamingNexus: Does this mean that G4 will now replace TechTV on cable systems and Sattelite systems that do not currently carry G4?
David Shane : Yes, there will be one channel. So Instead of having a G4 channel or a TechTV channel it will be one Channel and it will be in 44 Million homes.
GamingNexus: That’s pretty impressive,
David Shane : Yes, it’s good and it really jump starts our distribution in a huge way and triples our distribution. We were in 15 million homes and now we are in 44 million homes. We were in 15 million CABLE homes only and now we are on satellite as well so we are available through DirectTV and Dish Network and for us it’s a huge, huge jump forward. This puts us on par with a network like Style and the increased exposure is fantastic.

GamingNexus: Both networks have strong online communities behind them, will the various message boards and websites be merged or will they remain separate?
David Shane: That is something we are taking a look at right now. The TechTV website gets a lot of visitors, as does G4 so we are looking at how to take advantage of those online communities. We are still taking a look at both.

GamingNexus: Are there any new shows in the works or is it something that’s in the pipe and released once the networks are merged?
David Shane: Exactly, it will be down the pipe once the networks merge but we are actively working on new shows in development. Several brand new exciting concepts are on the table and after the merger is complete and the regulatory review period is over we’ll be in a place sometime this summer to make announcements about new shows.

GamingNexus: Will that be around E3 time or later?
David Shane: E3 is right around the corner for us and that will be just when the regulatory period is over so we’re looking at some time after E3.

GamingNexus: Leo and Patrick are pretty big personalities on TechTV are they going to be staying with the show or is that yet to be determined?
David Shane: Everything in terms of specific talent decisions or specific show decisions we are working with TechTV on to look and discuss. But at this time, again during the regulatory time period no decisions are being made in this 30 day window about shows, talent, etc.

GamingNexus: Do you see changes in format of the shows on TechTV or will the retain their same focus?
David Shane: You know I think that begs the bigger question of what is the network going to look like at the end of the day. And I would say that it is again going to be a video game/video game lifestyle focused network. And some of the shows that are on TechTV maybe you’ll see some of those concepts executed in a different way. Maybe you’ll see those shows just on the network. Those are types of things that we are trying to figure out right now under that broad umbrella of video game and video game lifestyle so it’s hard to really comment on the individual shows at TechTV until we figure out the will fit into the overall channel.

GamingNexus: Will we be any crossovers between TechTV and G4 personalities or will the shows be siloed?
David Shane: I think you will see a crossover in terms of that when the network is integrated it will feel like one network. It won’t feel like chunks of TechTV and chunks of G4 with two separate identities and hosts that don’t interact with each other. You’ll feel that you’re watching one seamless network.

GamingNexus: What are the next steps in the merger, are there any dates setup in terms of when one channel will be sunsetted or has that decision been made yet?
David Shane: Well we’re excited about the next step. The next step is that in 30 to 45 days we should have regulatory approval and then we will begin the process of combining the two channels and we will ultimately have one channel based in Los Angeles. So that process, that planning process is right now what we are doing and the next step is to get regulatory review and to get one signal.

GamingNexus: In your mind what are the positives for the gamer out there. How are they going to benefit from the merger?
David Shane: The positives are tremendous, the gamers are going to get more programming that is focused on video games and the video game lifestyle. Just by the fact that the network is going to be in more homes it will have more recognition and people will have access to the channel and we will be able to create bigger and better shows. So for gamers it’s extremely positive, they get the best all across the board. I think what you’ll find on our channel is more tech elements weaved into the G4 programming and we think that’s going to be of great interest to gamers because those are the people who are interested in cutting edge technology and that’s the generation that who knows immediately who to adapt and use new technologies. So we’re going to do our best to create an exciting, engaging network for video gamers around the country.

GamingNexus: What about negatives, are there possible things that people may not be happy with?
David Shane: I don’t think so, TechTV has been for sale a while so we think that it’s extremely positive for everyone. It’s a positive for gamers, it’s positive for cable operators, advertisers, and it’s positive for our viewers. It’s just going to be a bigger and bolder channel in 44 million homes with more robust programming really targeted to our core mission. Everyone we’ve talked to-date, whether it’s the gaming community, whether it’s advertisers, whether it’s affiliate’s whether it’s viewers have been very excited and very positive about the merger. There have been rumors of this for a while so people have thought it might happen for some time.We were very positive so it wasn’t very surprising, when the merger actually happened that we got the positive reaction from our constituents.

GamingNexus: Do you think this move strengthens G4’s position in the industry?
David Shane: Yeah I think it does. I think it strengthens G4’s position within the industry and I also think it solidifies the importance of video games in the culture. We are owned by the largest cable corporation in the country, Comcast, and they bought TechTV and are merging with G4 and it shows what interest they have in video games and what impact they think video games have in America today. It’s a big merger on all fronts. and it definitely strengthens our position with our constituents.

GamingNexus: You mention going after the male demographic, do you have any potential programming aimed at female gamers? They seem to be a growing segment.
David Shane: It is a growing segment. Our programming is designed to appeal to both. The female gamer segment is growing and we are definitely targeting them as well. However, from an advertiser perspective. our advertising sweet spot is men 18 to 34. But it remains that our programming is of interest to men and women and isn’t gender specific.

GamingNexus: One last question, what are your favorite shows on both networks?
David Shane: On our network I love G4tv.com, I think they do a terrific job and I also think we’ll see G4TV.com get a little more interactive as that show develops. I love Players, I think that’s a cool show. I think it’s always fun to see what celebrities are doing and how important gaming is in Hollywood. One of the most of the interesting things is the intersection between Hollywood and gaming and how close those two worlds are becoming. Whether it’s professional actors doing voice-over work in games or games based on movies or movies based on games I think there’s an interesting mix there that’s going to continue. For TechTV I think a lot of their shows are strong as well. I like X-Play, I like Robot Wars and they’ve got some terrific programming. We are going to take a look at creating a channel that encompasses the best of both worlds.


I'd like to thank Mr. Shane for taking time to talk to us about the merger and another big thank you should go to Karen Raque for helping coordinate the interview.