G4 is finally no more in Canada [Updated 7/7/2017]

Shaw and Rogers Cable have confirmed what many have been expecting for years: the death of G4 Canada. The Rogers Media run Canadian version of the US low end Spike clone (née video game) channel will shutdown on September 1, 2017 – nearly three years after the US feed did on December 31, 2014. No reason has been officially shared, but given it’s hard to believe anyone was watching this lineup, you can come to an easy conclusion.

Originally launched as TechTV on September 7, 2001, the co-venture between Rogers Media, Shaw Communications and TechTV US was supposed to be exclusively devoted to programming related to computing, technology and the internet; yet saw a channel history that mostly followed what happened to the US feed. In 2004, when the US feed merged with G4, the Canadian one became G4TechTV. When the US feed started drifting away from its initial mission statement, so did the Canadian one – well, largely.

Government regulations prevented the Canadian version from deteriorating entirely into the mess its southern brother became, though attempts were made. By 2006, the channel was fully owned by Rogers Media and in that year, the CRTC approved a license amendment to allow the channel to air drama and comedy programming. Mirroring the Anime Unleashed block the US channel launched in 2003, G4TechTV Canada debuted Anime Current in partnership with Geneon on November 6, 2006. The block ran until 2008, when the channel lost access to the Geneon programming library due to that company’s closure. The following year, Rogers launched ADd: Adult Digital distraction, a comedy themed block that mixed in Adult Swim imports, with British and American sitcoms. Then known solely as G4, the shift in programming drew negative attention from the CRTC, who noted in a 2011 license renewal request, that the channel’s “programming [was] not in compliance with its nature of service definition.” This came a year after the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found the channel in violation of a number of its guidelines by airing an episode of Superjail! without the proper rating and viewer warning. With these complications and the launch of Cartoon Network Canada taking away a significant chunk of its programming, ADd was discontinued in 2012.

2012 was also the year the grim reaper struck G4 in the United States. In December, the channel’s parent company, NBC Universal, cancelled all original programming (by then, just Attack of the Show and X-Play) as it geared up to relaunch the channel as Esquire, a new destination for men based on the magazine. That was the plan, until a last minute decision saw the company flip the Style Network into Esquire in 2013. G4 continued running as a dump for the programming the company still had the rights to until the plug was officially pulled on December 31, 2014. Amusingly, NBC Universal shutdown Esquire’s television channel last week.

By this point, G4 Canada had largely become an afterthought for Rogers. Their focus had shifted to launching FX and later, FXX, in Canada. While a high-definition feed of G4 inexplicably launched in 2014, Rogers stopped issuing press releases for the channel in 2011. Programming was becoming difficult. Rogers stopped acquiring new content and there obviously wasn’t any new stuff they could pull from the US. In part because of the CRTC’s regulations, the two flagship original Canadian shows, Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run, went daily in 2012 with reruns of the two starting to dominate the schedule. Within a few months, both the G4 Canada Facebook and Twitter accounts stopped updating entirely.

First run programming on G4 Canada came to halt after December 2015, when Rogers decided against renewing their contract with Greedy Productions, the company behind Electric Playground/EP Daily and Reviews on the Run. The Vancouver production had been running in some capacity since 1997. Much like how most of the US G4 personalities moved to the web, the EP shows can now can be seen as a scaled down YouTube channel.

Since then, G4 has been operating as a zombie – much like the US channel in its final days. Technically still moving, but not really alive. With the Greedy Productions deal over, EP Daily and Reviews on the Run were legally no longer able to be aired on the channel. That left the CRTC required tech programming to ancient episodes of Call for Help, Gadgets and Gizmos, Tech Books, and The Lab with Leo Laporte, which were ditched to the early morning hours. Realizing very few people would have a use for Windows XP troubleshooting at a time when Windows 10 is a thing, Rogers shifted the evening/night part of the schedule to whatever Canadian content they could scrape together from their other channels with a sprinkling of late-era US G4 “classics” like Campus PD. Hey, if Rogers could justify airing episodes of Murdoch Mysteries (from the City TV-era, of course) and The Liquidator on the channel, you could really run anything on it. G4 is supposed to be a specialty channel. I guess its specialty was in showcasing whatever Rogers Media had in its library with more than a season’s worth of episodes.

Despite the dearth of on-air and social media activity, G4 Canada’s website is still regularly updated with news and reviews, that as far as I can tell, is specific to the site. They even provided some bare bones E3 2017 coverage. Slightly less bizarre is the fact that Rogers had filed a license extension to the CRTC in April 2016 to keep their specialty channels, including G4, going. Their new agreement was set to come into effect on September 1, 2017 and expire on August 31, 2022. The first thought is they’re going to launch a new channel using G4’s license, but it’s July, and Rogers hasn’t said a word about any new channels. I guess it’s likelier this was just a blind group extension request that included a channel whose days were numbered.

I’m betting Rogers just fades to black from the final show.

According to the CRTC, G4 Canada had 1.4 million subscribers in 2015. That sounds not entirely abysmal, until you recognize that’s a 35% drop from the year prior and resulted in just $1.9 million in profit. Given the channel’s status, there’s no reason to believe that situation had improved in 2016. Rogers reacted to 2015’s drop by cutting the channel’s staff from 13 to 7. Frankly, I’m surprised they still had 7 people working on it in 2015. Maybe those are the people writing the reviews?

We’re in a turbulent time for linear television. G4 Canada’s closure will likely just be one of the many Canadian specialty channels that gets the axe over the coming years. Speaking at the Scotiabank Telecom, Media and Technology conference in May, Corus Entertainment CEO Doug Murphy warned of the shifting landscape: “Will we have 36 [different channels] in five years? Not likely. It’s in our best interests, as it is with the distributors, to redistribute some of those monies into the bigger services so we can invest in more programming in those big services to help improve the overall value equation.”

With the incredible popularity of Let’s Plays and other video game material on YouTube and Twitch, it’s kind of astonishing just how poorly linear television handled that opportunity. Yeah, I’m aware Allarco Entertainment re-branded Super Channel 4 into the international eSports TV channel Ginx back in May, but I feel like it’s a little too late for that. eSports is a fastly growing segment precisely because of its free availability. That’s kind of like trying to close Pandora’s Box.

UPDATE (7/7/2017): Speaking to Cartt.ca, Rogers Media has confirmed G4’s final day of broadcast will be on August 31, 2017. The company has no plans to replace the channel with a different brand. The rep added, “in the current competitive television landscape, closing G4 is the right business decision as we continue to focus on our core speciality portfolio.”

Via: Digital Home

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  1. I was the one who filed the complaint over SuperJail! The whole process when rather well from filing online to listening to the late great CITY TV announcer Mark Dailey reading the decision on air.

    They offered Leo Laporte a daily live show, but appently he didn’t want to move to Vancouver. It was downhill from there.

    • What was wrong with the Superjail airing? What rating did they show instead? I really wish AS Canada would air some Superjail now.

      • It was rated PG on G4 when the content of that show clearly is well beyond that rating. G4 also failed to air a proper viewer advisory (“the following program contains blah blah blah”) leading into Superjail.

      • It was rated PG. They said is was a technical error, but I think it had that rating from the beginning.

        My old blog post about it: https://doconnor.transsee.ca/blog/?p=288

  2. Apparently, Victor Lucas (Electric Playground, Reviews on the Run) pitched a rebrand of the channel that was turned down by Rogers:

  3. I do wonder if Rogers will try to jump on the eSports bandwagon. They’ve already got a highlight show airing weekly on Sportsnet 360, so maybe they might try and go further with that?

  4. I looked it up, and the anime lineup they broadcasted is pretty large and diverse. Mostly little older obscure shows, but still a good variety of series. If I knew this was a thing, I’d watch it religiously in those 2006 days.

    R.O.D the TV
    Gad Guard
    Tenjho Tenge
    Gun Sword
    Trigun
    The SoulTaker
    Hellsing
    Lupin the Third (Part 2) (First 52 episodes only)
    Serial Experiments Lain
    Paranoia Agent
    Gungrave
    Texhnolyze
    Last Exile
    Vandread
    Tokyo Underground
    Ergo Proxy
    The Wicked and the Damned: A Hundred Tales of Karma
    3×3 Eyes
    Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
    Black Lagoon

    • Falpha
    • July 6th, 2017

    I still miss X-Play, and there is not anything online that has replaced it.

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