They canceled one of my favorite shows.
It was called "Judgment Day" and it was a Siskel & Ebert take on video games. Chances are you never heard of it. But that’s the point, I guess.
A few years back when we got digital cable I discovered a jewel of a channel: G4TV. All video games, all the time. Video game reviews, tips, cheats, call-in talk shows, news programs, award shows, game shows, and a lot of repeats. It was kind of like MTV back in the day, but with an even smaller budget. I loved it. It was the bane of my wife’s existence.
But I digress.
Most all of the hosts back then were serious gamers. (What video game players liked to be called, assuming they liked to be called anything.) There was passion in what they did and however unpolished, it was enjoyable. I’m sure golfers found the same sense of community when they first discovered the golf channel, sports fans when ESPN came on the air, and geeks when the Sci-Fi channel appeared.
Just the idea that a video game channel existed was great. I knew there were other people out there, watching this fledgling channel, who loved video games, too. Without even knowing these people, I felt there was a community of gamers around me. Being a guy in his mid-to-late thirties with a wife and two kids with buddies who haven’t played a video game since Spy Hunter in the arcade, I didn’t have a lot of people to talk to when it came to games. I was in heaven.
Then things fell apart. First, G4 and TechTV merged. TechTV had a rabid fan base of people who loved computers and technology. Although there’s some obvious cross-over between the two audiences, it would be like merging Lifetime and Comedy Central into one network because many women like to laugh.
On hindsight, I think G4 merged with TechTV so that they could have access to a broader audience. G4 wasn’t on many cable stations, and TechTV, in part because it had been around longer, was. However, I know the audiences of both channels were unimpressed with the new Frankenstein that now existed.
I felt especially bad for TechTV fans; almost all of those shows were canceled except for another video game review show–the painful-to-watch X-Play–and a tech help call-in show called The Screen Savers. Immediately they got rid of the aging hosts (they were in their 30′s) and replaced them with a bunch of young, good looking characters more suited to the demographic or perhaps pulled right out of an SSX Tricky snowboarding game. Then they changed the name to "Attack of the Show." Clever, but now there’s nothing left of TechTV.
Now, I’m just guessing here, but I think what happened is G4 got what they wished for–more eyeballs on more cable systems–but they didn’t know what to do with them. Video gamers are hard core, but not everyone thinks the world needs a 24/7 video game network. (Crazy, I know.)
So, rather than play to their core audience, they tried to extend a brand that few people knew about. First, they started their own show on car mods. Now, this is something that does have a following, but there are already about a hundred shows on "pimping one’s car" on TV. Everyone from MTV to the Discovery channel has one.
Then, going after this same demographic, they added repeats of Fastlane. Remember Fastlane, the Tiffany Amber Thiessen show? No one else does, either.
Recently, they started showing repeats of The Man Show. I guess the thought was that most video game players want to see women on trampolines.
Even more recently, they started showing repeats of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Now, I was a big fan of STNG, but I watched all the episodes back in the early 90′s. Anyone who still wants to watch these shows probably own them on DVD.
Perhaps to make room for this show, they canceled Judgment Day. So now G4 is like MTV now…a video game channel with no video games.
I know this is probably more information than anyone wants on the rise and fall of G4TV, but I wanted to make a point. G4, whether it succeeded or failed (it may still be ahead of its time), had a loyal niche audience and little to no competition for their attention.
Along the way they started to play it safe, go for a wider audience and water down the product. People want to belong, they want to be part of a community. What community is made up of people who identify themselves with The Man Show, Star Trek and Fastlane? Who’s going to get passionate about that?
I checked the G4 forums recently and people were talking about writing the station letters and complaining. I wouldn’t bother. G4 will perish and a new video game channel will rise from the ashes and maybe they’ll stay true to their roots.
How does this fit in to the theme of this blog? I guess that as small business owners many of us don’t want to turn down any business. We want to be all things to all people, to avoid missing out on any opportunities. However, you can’t be all things to all people. If you do that your name–your brand–means nothing.
It’s by narrowing our focus–not broadening it–we become better at what we do and more valuable to our customers. If you are passionate about what you do and you do it well you will find an audience and you will succeed. If you try too hard to please everyone you’ll just piss off your most loyal and passionate users/customers/clients.
And then you’ll be left with nothing but The Man Show.
Tags: Video Games | Small Business Marketing