It's cable's play 'station'

New Comcast network aims for videogamers, and their $9.4B wallet

Comcast's newly hatched G4 network is all about videogames and interactive entertainment, an MTV-style channel for gaming nuts. But viewers who want to play games will have to go back to their computers and Sega machines.

"MTV filled a void on television for the music industry, and we're going to do the same for gaming," said G4 creator and CEO Charles Hirschorn, a former Walt Disney Television executive.

There certainly is a market: The gaming industry generates an estimated $9.4 billion in annual sales.

The channel launched April 24 on digital in 3 million Comcast Cable and Insight Communications homes (Insight is a minority investor). Comcast's pro- gramming stable also includes the Golf Channel, Outdoor Life, Comcast SportsNet and E! Entertainment Television.

G4 executives aim to reach 30 million homes within five years. Those with viewers 12 to 34 years old, particularly males, are especially attractive.

G4 opened up with 13 original series that blend entertainment and information with an MTV or E! flair. Players
polls celebs on their favorite games; Pulse
is the net's weekly videogame-business news show. The programming runs in three- hour blocks throughout the day.

The network is gunning for digital carriage at a time when even digital tiers are filling up. Unlike other diginets that rehash library content from their analog sister services, says COO Deborah Green, G4 is 100% original.

"There's never a capacity issue if you have a good product," said Green, former senior vice president of affiliate sales for E!.