Learning from the death of G4 and VENN: TV on Twitch not working

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Over the weekend, news leaked that Comcast is canceling G4TV less than a year after its relaunch. The former TV network in the early 2000s – known for shows like Xplay and Attack of the Show! – failed to recapture the millennial audience Comcast searched on Twitch and pay TV providers.

my time with competitor VENN was enough to know that G4TV was living on borrowed time. While G4TV made quite a few mistakes, the underlying problem was the format itself.

Both VENN and G4TV brought premium television-style content to platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming. This sounds – in theory – like a recipe for success. However, this style of content creates a host of problems for the companies behind it.

Financial consequences of formatting

Let’s start with money. In a leaked statement Dave Scott, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, admitted to G4TV’s staff that G4TV’s viewership is low and the network lacks sustainable financial
Results.” The overhead to run a traditional TV network — the stages, production teams, talent, and sales and support staff — is enormous. VENN burned over $40 million in 18 months trying this.

These rising costs have likely prompted executives to look for ways to monetize their product. Both VENN and G4TV chose to make deals with pay-TV distribution companies — Roku Channel, Xumo, DistroTV and more for VENN and Verizon FiOS, Cox, Xfinity TV and Philo for G4TV — to achieve this.

However, these deals created a host of problems. Namely advertising breaks. While Twitch recently urged streamers to show more adsTwitch viewers often complain that commercials ruin the experience. After all, Twitch has tweaked their user base to only see pre-roll ads for years. When VENN and G4TV tried to run traditional eight-minute-an-hour commercials on a platform like Twitch, they lost viewers.

Both networks tried to appeal to a new generation of viewers with a linear TV format presented on a streaming platform for which it was not designed.

About the last 90 daysG4TV averaged just over 2,000 viewers on Twitch, putting the company firmly in the top 1% of broadcasters. But compared to the thousands of viewers Nielsen reports for TV networks, this seems peanuts for executives.

However, this may be a failure to see a bigger trend. Even studio style shows presented on TV lose their audience.

Can’t find a fan base

Building a fan base is, of course, incredibly difficult to do. Talent is the most important tool for outreach, so selecting the right people to promote a network is essential.

Both VENN and G4TV hired top talent and guests to appear on the program. But both failed to find personalities that would generate the viewership they needed.

Both networks chose to work with esports talent, especially commentators and interviewers/hosts. They believed that hiring talent with large Twitter followings and expertise in one or more esports would attract viewers. While this probably helped to some extent, the networks failed to convert as many fans as they’d hoped.

Unlike streamers who work for years to cultivate a personal following, esports commentators don’t necessarily inspire the same level of connection. This puts them at a disadvantage when they have to attract viewers by sheer strength of their personality.

This is made even more difficult when you alienate some of the audience you have.

G4TV made headlines January 2022 when one of the hosts gave a fiery speech about sexism in gaming. While sexism in gaming deserves to be mentioned, this criticism sadly divided the public.

Statistically, this segment hurt G4TV’s long-term growth. In the immediate aftermath, G4TV lost thousands of YouTube subscribers and the average number of views per video never fully recovered. Since the segment aired, G4TV has removed all references to it on their social media and made the video private on YouTube.

VENN had similar content, especially in the gaming news show leading up to the 2020 election. When we tested this content with the audience, most viewers wanted the content to be less political. They wanted game content to be an escape from other problems in their lives.

Ultimately, both G4TV and VENN marketed themselves to too narrow an audience and alienated potential viewers.

Sign of the times

G4TV and networks like this are becoming relics of the past. Content creators like Ludwig Ahgren can grow a news show – Mogul Mail — up to nearly 1 million subscribers in a year with just a webcam and a microphone. This makes it impossible for large manufacturing companies to compete on a cost basis.

The public cares about individual creators, not anonymous companies. This is why companies like G4 and VENN paid big name creators to be the face of their shows. For example, AustinShow, one of Twitch’s top creators, was contracted to host game shows on both VENN and G4TV. However, the content wasn’t tacky enough to keep content creator fans going after their episodes ended.

Big productions on Twitch aren’t dead, they evolve to be creator-led. For example, Felix “xQc” Lengyel’s Juiced game show is produced by OFFSET, Ludwig’s agency. The show is still in its infancy, but already almost reached 100,000 average viewers.

Both G4TV and VENN’s shortcomings are partly due to ownership not understanding the platform, but it was also a result of not understanding that the playbook that worked in 2008 wouldn’t work in 2022.

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