Male viewers whose tastes run more sophisticated than gaming and wrestling can take heart: Hearst's Esquire magazine is getting together with NBCUniversal to launch the Esquire Network for intelligent and stylish men.
The name is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that Esquire doesn’t own any part of the venture, and while it can suggest features from the magazine for programming, there’s no guarantee the network (as earlier reported, a rebrand of the G4 gaming channel) will use them. (Probably best to leave the programming decisions to the TV people; as the many failed magazine-as-TV-shows have illustrated, print periodical content doesn’t always translate to the screen.)
Jack Essig, Hearst svp and publishing director with responsibility for Esquire, suggested that Esquire features like Women We Love, 80 Years of Esquire and Best Bars could lend themselves to TV content. But Adam Stotsky, general manager of the network, made it clear that all programming would come out of the network.
“We make the television channel; they run the magazine," he said. “We’re not looking to turn the magazine into television. The relationship magazines have with their readers is slightly different. The front of book, for Esquire, serves as a service to its readers. That’s not a service we’re looking to replicate on television." Indeed, the first new original series that have been created for the network, Knife Fight (a cooking show) and Getaway (working title for a travel show with Anthony Bourdain), didn't come out of the magazine's editorial process.
What Esquire is definitely contributing is promotional space. Editor in chief David Granger is going to promote the channel in each issue, and Esquire.com will host the network’s online presence. Beyond brand awareness, the magazine will be able to promote subscriptions during programming interstitials. Esquire.com will stand to get a traffic lift from hosting Esquire TV and a share of cross-media ad sales with the network—important as it, like other magazines, faces a challenged print ad market.
Without the magazine having direct control over the content, the risk inherent in such a partnership is that the network will go off the (brand) rails, as other networks have done in search of viewers, potentially undermining the title's brand. Essig said the key to keeping the channel on-brand would be “lots of clear communication. We are fiercely protective of the Esquire brand.”
Michael Hirschorn, founder of Ish Entertainment, said one big thing in Esquire's favor is that as a new property, Esquire Network has something to prove. “There’ll be some pressure [on the Esquire Network] to stay within certain lines,” he said. “It sounds like a risk, but a smart, calculated one. There’s a benefit for [the magazine] in terms of subscriptions and Web traffic, and definitely very little downside.”