The recent departure of Adam Sessler from G4 caps off the television network's short and troubled history with yet another low point. From its inception in 2002 to the present, G4 has struggled to gain an audience large enough to sustain its ambitions. Even after name changes, format adjustments, and massive layoffs, G4 still couldn't survive in the supposedly recession proof entertainment industry. The loss of their largest and arguably most respected host can only spell more trouble, and possibly oblivion for the network. How did the only network dedicated to the most lucrative medium in America get to this point, and where could it possibly go from here?
Media megacorp Comcast created G4 in an attempt to capitalize on the exploding video game market. Shortly after its creation, G4 acquired sister station techTV, gaining Sessler, his show X-Play, and the very popular Screen Savers program in the process. The newly formed G4TechTV decided to focus exclusively on gaming and gaming culture content. Shows like X-Play, Cheat, Cinematech, Pulse, and Judgment Day, enjoyed a small, but loyal fan base due to their accurate and respectful coverage of games and gamers. However, in 2005 Comcast decided that the small audience carved out by the network was insufficient, and the channel was overhauled.
In 2005, new channel president Neal Tiles said about the format change: “We're going through a change. Guys like to play games, but not necessarily watch a bunch of shows with games on the screen. So what we're doing now is expanding G4 from a network solely defined by video games to one inspired by them”. Most gaming shows were phased out for ones with more general appeal. The core audience was funneled to two shows, X-Play, and Attack of the Show! (formally Screen Savers), however both shows underwent formatting changes of their own. X-Play went from a semi-serious review show to a variety show, featuring comedy skits, and perhaps most baffling, political commentary. Attack of the Show! received new hosts, lessened its tech and gaming coverage, and the tone of the show became increasingly more manic. All of these changes were met with hostility and disappointment by viewers, and the network continued to struggle.
The channel first appeared to be in real trouble in 2007 when Comcast announced that, as part of its network consolidation, G4 would be downsized. Original shows like Pulse and Arena were cancelled, and syndicated shows like Cops and Cheaters began to take up more and more of the line up. In 2009, the downsizing was met with layoffs, and the station's original shows were broadcast a reduced number of days. In 2010, DirectTV dropped G4 from their lineup, saying that “they didn't see the value in the network”. Finally, a series of personnel loses, including the aforementioned Adam Sessler, left the network hollowed out.
The main issue with G4 is that it never maintained an identity of its own, instead opting to compete for someone else's. When the network first launched it was the only gaming network on television, and its respectful and fun treatment of the medium was met with some success; which makes the transformation into some kind of Spike TV knock off all the more bewildering. There's simply no point to watch G4 anymore. Its syndicated shows are old, and its original shows are terrible. Even its semi-watchable shows, like X-Play and E3-Live, have content you can easily find online. Worst of all, G4 is simply embarrassing. G4 is supposedly gaming's representation on television, and it had Cops on for six hours yesterday. Adam Sessler was the last respectable thing on that network, and now he's off the air, and soon, so too will the network.