Launched in 2002, it was designed to cater to a very specific demographic, and it was surmised that with enough money, talent, and exposure, it could do for videogames what MTV did for music. As we now know, it floundered. There were a couple of standout shows such as Cinamatech, Filter, Judgment Day, and Icons, but the station just didn't have enough content to keep things fresh and interesting. As someone who liked to frequent the station when nothing else seemed inviting on cable at the moment, I can personally vouch for this. More often than not, you would either find constant reruns of shows that had already aired, or even worse, long blocks of infomercials. Looking back, it's not exactly the eighth wonder of the world as to why things had to change.
The channel has seen a couple of programming changes since then, but if you flash forward to the present time and compare it to G4's earliest days, you would think that the two were never related. Now, you are likely to find that the vast majority of programming seems to include videogames as an afterthought. Now here's the kicker: viewership is at an all time high. According to G4's President, Neal Tiles, business is better than ever:
Let me preface all of my comments on these types of questions by saying that G4, and TechTV before it, has never been watched more than it is right now, since shifting away from an "all videogame" format…the network has realized huge ratings gains and web, VOD and podcasting traffic. We are in our 35 consecutive month of ratings growth (not sure if any other TV network can match that) and we have more VOD and podcasting views than any other ad supported cable network. I say this off-the-bat in an attempt to minimize what will inevitably be future callous flaming responses of "G4 sucks!" or "G4 went downhill ever since it moved away from ‘all gaming’"….simply, the network has never been stronger as a business.
So what does this tell us about the state of videogame television? G4 is saying that they've been there, done that, and it just doesn't work. It could be argued that videogames tend to displace television, and that we look to the Internet to keep us abreast of what is going on in the gaming world. Equally so, it could be said that G4 was its own worst enemy from the start. They hyped up the channel, but just didn't follow it up with enough relevant content to keep themselves afloat.
None of us seem to have all of the answers, but the next time you happen to click on the channel and are met with episodes of Cops, Cheaters, or Star Trek, at least you know the reason why. The old model for videogame television is broken. If there's any hope of ever making a new one that works, it's going to have to magically attract gamers and nongamers alike. You know, like regular TV shows. Until then, you can always console yourself with a trip back in time, if urge hits you, I suppose.
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