I don't really pay much attention to gaming news or "gamer" lifestyle products, but I came across a sidebar link to a story on Joystiq about DIRECTV dropping G4. This got me to thinking about the prospects for a true, gaming-oriented television channel and what business model(s) could make it profitable.
First, we have to accept that G4 is not a gaming channel. It's sole remaining gaming-oriented show is X-Play, and many appear to criticize that for the lack of depth in its coverage. Code Monkeys was canceled 6 episodes into its second season. Attack of the Show is simply an internet/nerd/college culture variety show, with very little true gaming focus. The rest of the channel's line up consists of reruns of Cops, Cheaters, Unbeatable Banzuke, Ninja Warrior; new shows Campus PD, It's Effin' Science (what?); and junk like The International Sexy Ladies Show. Given this assemblage of late night slackervision trash, it's unsurprising that DIRECTV called out G4's status as "among the lowest rated networks based on the latest Nielsen data."
I'm not a gamer. I play video games, but not very many. I am fascinated by video game development technology, but I am not a game developer, either. I work as a software developer and I contribute to an open source project in my spare time, but my real passions are with media. So this news got me to thinking, What would a sustainable gaming-oriented TV channel look like?
In the comments on Joystiq, someone mentioned video blogs like Rocketboom, and, indeed, this is where I would start. However, I would deviate significantly from the accepted model and start by targeting game developers, particularly independents and aspiring professionals, and hope that the proven pros would come along for the ride, too. I would prepare a series of video podcasts on technical, design, artistic, ethical and political issues pertinent to game developers, reasoning that all game developers are gamers to some degree and most gamers look up to game developers and would want to know what they think and how they do their jobs - how they create the games they play. Editorially, I would focus on commentary rather than news, since a video resource is virtually bound to be less timely than pure text plays. For instance, having a Charlie Rosen-style show where game artists, software engineers, producers and executives speak, occasionally in panel or round-table format, on the peculiar technical, artistic and ethical challenges and rewards of their discipline and industry, and retrospectives on social, cultural and technological shifts and breakthroughs that have had significant consequences for the industry.
High production values. Non-didactic staging (these are not "tutorial" shows). A preference for philosophical perspective, mining areas of rich debate. Absolutely no reviews or previews.
That's right, no game reviews, or even hardware reviews. Instead I'd have in-depth discussions of specific attributes, features or design decisions of a game. There are already an abundance of excellent review resources, including video reviews. The objective here is not to compete with suppliers of services for needs that are already being met but to fill in the gaps where content is lacking and to develop a sustainable business model to bring that content to the widest possible audience in a mature fashion.
For the web, the revenue model would be advertising and subscription, with subscribers seeing few/no ads. Once proven, the initial attempt to migrate to TV would rely on On-Demand service. Rather than launching as a general-purpose channel and hoping the various cable and satellite providers decide to add us to their Basic Cable tier, I'd launch as a $3 to $5 monthly on-demand package. Having this small, focused audience with specific revenues and likely much higher levels of engagement (especially if content quality is world-class) should provide an abundance of high-value feedback on what works and doesn't, allowing for refinement of the product before attempting to launch as a Basic Cable package.
That's my pipe dream this afternoon, and I figured I'd share. Back to lurking... [smile]