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24-hour video game channel set to launch

Some analysts wonder if G4 will find an audience

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In 2001, more than $9 billion was spent on video games, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association.  


By Daniel Sieberg
CNN Sci-Tech

(CNN) -- Getting video game players off their computers is no easy task, but the people behind a new television network are hoping to do just that.

G4, an all-video-game TV network, is set to launch Wednesday to capitalize on the country's growing fascination with gaming. The timing seems especially opportune in light of the ongoing three-way battle between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo for video game console sales.

So with 145 million people in the United States spending more than $9 billion on video gaming last year, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association -- and that big number includes arcade traffic, game sales and so on -- can G4 convince gamers to put down their controllers and pick up their remotes?

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CNN's Daniel Sieberg looks at G4, a 24-hour, all video game television network set to launch April 24 (April 12)

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"It's the fastest growing entertainment form, any way you look at it," says Charles Hirschhorn, founder and CEO of G4 Media. "It's sort of our unique opportunity to present a channel to an industry we think deserves a channel."

G4 is to feature original programming ranging from weekly series and specials to gaming tips, news, events and reviews of the latest games. The shows will be aimed at all gaming platforms, including consoles, PCs, arcades and handheld devices.

But some observers say that a non-interactive video game presentation may not be stimulating enough for many gamers. G4 subscribers won't be playing games over the burgeoning network.

Gaming "people overwhelmingly want to get to what they want to get -- compared to the number of people that want to just sit back and watch," says Ryan MacDonald, executive producer at GameSpot.com, a video game news site.

Will it catch on?

MacDonald argues that the short attention spans of most gamers won't mesh with the scheduled programming of G4.

Hirschhorn counters that G4 will have a broad appeal to gamers while still providing a specialized outlet.

"I think anyone who's passionate about their hobby and interest would like to watch it on TV," says Hirschhorn, the former president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation.

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The G4 channel will be aimed at teen-agers and young adults.  

But TV analysts like Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University says that while some niche programming ventures like the Food Network and MTV have been largely successful, there's no guarantee that G4 will survive in an already crowded medium.

Thompson notes, however, that advertisers may be attracted to G4's young demographic, which could help its viability.

Regardless, the channel will have to vie for attention with trade magazines and Web sites like GameSpot.com -- two going information sources for gamers.

"I think the Net has had such a commanding lead over all the mediums, it's going to be interesting to see what happens," says GameSpot.com's MacDonald.

'Validates the video game industry'

Hirschhorn says there's room for everyone.

"My hope is that we won't compete with any form of the game industry," he says. "We want to complement their business."

Video game reviewer and consumer technology expert Marc Saltzman says the jury is still out on whether gamers will play into G4.

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One of the 13 original programs on G4 will be called "Sweat," which will focus on sports games.  

"I think the buzz in the video game industry is mixed, but for the most part it's positive," says Saltzman. "A 24-hour TV network almost validates the video game industry."

G4's target audience will be kids and young adults. Hirschhorn says his network will need to balance the violent nature of some video games with programming times.

"There is a small percentage, about 6 or 7 percent (of games) that are rated too violent for children under 16," says Hirschhorn. "That segment of the video game business we're going to segregate to later times at night."

At first, G4 will be available only to Comcast Cable subscribers, but the network is talking to other cable providers so their viewers, too, can "get game."



 
 
 
 


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