With G4’s relaunch taking place in 24 hours, we spoke to G4 President Russell Arons about talent, strategy and appeal of the new G4.
The Catastrophic Launch Spectacular starts at 7PM ET on November 16th
G4 will officially relaunch later today (November 16th), with a 3-hour special entitled The Catastrophic Launch Spectacular on their Twitch channel and YouTube channel (7pm ET/4pm PST). The relaunch is the culmination of a year’s work of preparation, and will see all 15 broadcast talent G4 has assembled together in the studio.
If you’ve missed the “B4 G4” content or want to get a better understanding of what G4 will be broadcasting, this article should enlighten you and potentially get you aboard the hype train.
In September, G4 brought in reinforcements in the form of a brand new President. Russell Arons previously served as general of manager of Machinima, but has worked for the likes of Mattel, Warner Bros and Electronic Arts in the past.
We spoke to Russell Arons about what the new G4 represents, its innovative digital-first approach and what it will contribute to the esports space.
Wait.. what is G4?
Quick history lesson. G4 was the first television network dedicated to gaming and video game culture that was launched under the ownership of Comcast in 2002. In terms of the content, it was essentially aiming to be the MTV of gaming.
The G4 television channel was popular in the 2000s and often reported live from offline events such as Comic Con and E3. At the time gaming culture was not as prominent as it is now, and the channel was a chance for many gamers to get validation about their gaming pastime. The original G4 was shutdown in 2014, only to be reopened earlier this year. Tonight will be the first show of the relaunch.
Schedule for launch week:
G4 returns to a very different gaming world
“Originally G4 really made gaming and fandom. It was the first place to legitimise gaming as an acceptable form of entertainment,” said Russell Arons. “Fast forward to today and gaming is just ubiquitous, and fandom is more explosive than ever.”
Russell Arons went on to say that there is no better time for G4 to celebrate and amplify what is happening in gaming and fandom.
“Having a cast that represents so many different viewpoints and allows the audience to participate in the conversation from an entertainment standpoint, there’s really no one doing that,” said Russell Arons.
Over the course of 2021, G4 has assembled a team of 15 broadcast talent, all from very different backgrounds. For esports fans you will be most familiar with veteran host Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, League of Legends content creator and memer extraordinaire Ovilee May, as well as former LEC analyst Indiana “Froskurinn” Black.
However, they are just part of a diverse list of talent which includes VTuber CodeMiko (along with Technician), WWE wrestler Xavier and more.
“One thing that we want to represent is the broader lifestyle around gaming fandom and Esports,” said Russell Arons. “For example we have someone like World Wrestling superstar Xavier Woods who is part of our cast, and other voices and personalities who know are all about gaming. Now they have a place they can serve as a host and participate.”
G4 talent list:
- Adam Sessler: Returning host of Xplay. Soapbox included.
- Kevin Pereira: Returning host of Attack of the Show!. Back at the podium to take you around the net.
- WWE Superstar King Woods AKA Austin Creed: The King of the Ring is here.
- Froskurinn: Boosted host and all-around esports legend.
- Ovilee May: Boosted host and the internet’s favorite esports personality.
- Kassem Gharaibeh: The Godfather of YouTube.
- Fiona Nova: Producer, Content Creator, Host – She’s G4’s Jill of all trades.
- Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez: World-renowned esports commentator and knows The Rock (nbd).
- CodeMiko: Televisions latest and greatest vTube host. (along with “Technician, the creator behind CodeMiko)
- Gina Darling: Our wildcard. Chaotic good affiliation.
- Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil: Finally completing his goal of hundred percenting an aughts gaming network!
- Will Neff: Twitch phenom. Sharp dresser. Ambidextrous host.
- The Black Hokage: The most handsome host we’ve got (his words, and maybe mine).
Digital-first approach will go down well with gamers
G4’s relaunch goes live on linear cable TV on November 16th but G4’s return comes with a fresh new way to approach distribution. One that is more fitting with the times.
“We’re not just a cable channel anymore, we’re very digital first. We will launch our shows first on Twitch, then on live streams, to VODs on YouTube and then to linear channels and AVOD*.”
By the end of the year following expansion, Russell Arons expects G4 to be in 70 million homes.
An innovative approach to designing core programming
A legitimate advantage of G4’s “digital-first” approach is the ability to publicly pilot new show concepts.
“In today’s digital environment you don’t have to do a pilot and see if anybody likes it,” said Russell Arons. “Instead you can listen to the audience which is what we’ve been doing all summer.”
At launch G4 will have 30 hours of original programming on Twitch, which will then be further curated and edited to make it appropriate for linear television. Experimentation is engrained in the blueprint for the relaunch, and we’ll get to see concepts tried and test lived on Twitch.
For two hours before and after G4’s core programming, the 15 broadcast talent have been assigned “streaming blocks”, a window to experiment with new formats and ideas. Should a concept gain traction it will “graduate”, and more funds will be assigned to develop it further, even potentially to the point of having its own set.
“It’s basically a living incubator to find out what could be our next main programme,” said Russell Arons, G4’s President of Gaming and Fandom. “It’s funny because I had a meeting with a traditional television executive this week, and he was asking how we do our pilots. I said we don’t do pilots, we do it all live and the audience is going to tell us what they like.”
A much more diverse cast to fit a very different gaming world
One noticeable difference with the new cast of G4 is it is a lot more diverse than the original G4 cast, and that is no coincidence.
“The original G4 was pretty much only white men and some pretty women,” said Russell Arons. “The new cast is much more diverse and much more representative of the world of gaming.”
“We looked for talent who were already popular on Twitch who could bring their own perspective and their own passion around certain games,” said Russell Arons. “We’re pairing the likes of Goldenboy and Frosk with legendary talents like X-Play’s Adam Sessler and Attack of the Show!‘s Kevin Pereira.”
For the younger readers and those outside of North America, Adam Sessler and Kevin Pereira were two of the original hosts of the two flagship shows G4 will be bringing back to life. The duo were brought back as part of the relaunch.
“It’s like no secret that G4 wasn’t always on the right side of the story in the past,” said Froskurinn to Esports.gg. “Some of the jokes by today’s standards would not be considered tasteful.”
“I think by trying to rebuild it, it’s like recognising everything it did well, but also seeing everything it could have done better and trying to fix that.
“It’s not just like someone saying from behind the camera ‘hey let’s get the lesbian and the one black dude’, it’s about us having so many different perspectives and voices so that if someone feels a certain way they can raise their hand and be like ‘how about we not do that joke. Perhaps this way might better’,” said Froskurinn.
The former LEC analyst Froskurinn will not only be part of Boosted, the rebooted X-Play but also one of the stars of the DND show Invitation to Party which debuts on Friday 19th November at 6pm ET.
C.A.N. – G4 aiming to reach core, casual and new esports fans
Esports has obviously evolved astronomically since the original G4’s demise, and competitive gaming will be on the menu. G4 have already announced a partnership with ESL for their North American events. G4 has been granted exclusive media rights and will produce and broadcast exclusive primetime programmes around ESL content, which includes IEM Katowice 2022.
G4’s President Russell Arons stressed that G4’s approach to esports event coverage will be additive. Putting what Russell Arons refers to as the “G4 spin” on the often times rather serious tone of competitive esports broadcasts.
Russell Arons explained G4 hopes to appeal to the esports audience at three levels, using the rather ingenious acronym C.A.N, standing for Core, Aware and New.
“The core audience, that’s where we’re partnering with ESL and game publishers, and doing things around established tournaments,” said Russell Arons.
“The aware audience is people who are gamers but maybe aren’t directly following eSports closely. And that’s where our programme called Boosted comes in. And for our new audience, our show Crash Course will help to demystify what Esports is and give new potential fans the context of why certain news are so important. “
Wait Boosted a show for core esports fans?
For esports fans, G4’s new show Boosted will probably peak your interest the most from the starting line-up of shows. Boosted will feature G4’s three most experienced esports talent; GoldenBoy, Ovilee and Froskurinn. Designed for hardcore esports fans, Boosted will offer a comedic take on esports news and events, which according to Ovilee is something esports sorely needs.
“eSports needs to learn how to pull a stick out there butt to be quite frank with you,” said Ovilee, one of the hosts of Boosted. “We are going to be delivering that information, news and commentary on the scene in a fun and comedic way that a lot of tournament organisers or events may feel hesitant or a little scared to do.
“G4 is really going to come in and provide the audience and all of these eSports fans who have been dying for something a little bit more fun and out of the box.”