NBCU’s Esquire Network Will Now Unseat Style Rather Than G4

USA’s Wachtel elevated; Klarman out at Oxygen in major shake-up

After months of cleaning house at G4, the network has been granted a somewhat inadvertent reprieve, as NBCUniversal has decided that the low-rated women’s lifestyle outlet Style will now surrender its spot on the dial to Esquire Network.

The new male-targeted network bows in the Style footprint on Sept. 23. Esquire Network general manager Adam Stotsky will continue to oversee G4.

If nothing else, shifting Esquire to the Style slot will give the new property a better shot at drawing an audience. Per SNL Kagan estimates, Style is available in a little more than 75 million homes, while G4 reaches around 62 million subs.

Neither niche net is a huge ratings magnet. This summer Style averaged just 79,000 adults 18-49 in prime time, while G4 delivered 67,000.

Salaam Coleman-Smith, former head of Style, will continue to work at NBCU, though where, exactly, remains to be seen. Programming that’s already been bought and paid for, including an upcoming show executive produced by Rihanna, will remain in the NBCUniversal portfolio, with the lion’s share likely to land at E!

There’s also talk of moving some Style programming to Esquire—Giuliana and Bill, in particular, boasts comparatively high co-viewing numbers. Now that it appears to have won a stay of execution, it remains to be seen as to what kind of programming mix G4 will offer. The final episodes of the network’s flagship programs, Attack of the Show! and X-Play, aired in January, and development effectively stopped when the original Esquire launch scheme was announced in December 2012.

The decision to shelve Style comes as part of a major housecleaning, which will see the departure of Oxygen network head Jason Klarman and the elevation of USA Network co-president Jeff Wachtel to president and chief content officer of NBCU Cable Entertainment.

Wachtel has been vetting programs in an unofficial capacity for non-USA networks for years, according to a source familiar with the proceedings. In his new role, Wachtel “will work closely with the presidents and development teams at each network to create compelling content that not only embodies but enhances their brands,” said Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group. (Wachtel reports directly to Hammer.)

Meanwhile, Chris McCumber, who has since 2011 served as co-president of USA, will now be the sole president of the top-rated cable net.

With Klarman gone, Bravo president Frances Berwick will add oversight of Oxygen to her remit, while Suzanne Kolb, who was NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert’s pick for the top job at E!, will stay put.

In explaining the shake-up to staff, Hammer had this to say: “[W]ith success comes a constant risk: complacency. Just because something is working today doesn't mean it will work forever.”

Today’s executive moves mark the first time NBCUniversal has acknowledged that its acquisition by Comcast created some large-scale redundancy. “With Bravo, E! and Oxygen, we offer unique takes on popular culture for an ever-broadening audience, including the all-important female demo,” Hammer told staffers. “In pursuit of that same demo, Style presents brand overlap within our portfolio. Esquire Network, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to introduce a lifestyle network that speaks to an upscale male audience underserved in the current marketplace.”

Reading between the lines, there’s clearly an attempt here to incorporate both Comcast veterans and longtime NBCU hands into the network’s authority structure. Steve Dolcemaschio, formerly the head of NBCU cable’s reality studio, will become chief operating officer of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios (reporting to Wachtel)—both near and dear to Hammer, whose history as a production exec includes a number of UCP series.

Thus far, the only network that hasn’t undergone a massive org-chart shuffle is Syfy, which continues apace with a huge development slate and several new shows in the works under president Dave Howe. 

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