G4, the video game television and online network backed by Comcast abruptly closed on Oct. 16. In a memo to staff published by Deadline, Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott wrote of lower viewership and that G4 had “not achieved sustainable financial results” before relaying the decision to discontinue G4’s operations. As sudden as the end game was, it didn’t surprise a number of now-former G4 employees, who believed the venture’s end had been nigh for months.
In interviews with The Washington Post, 11 former G4 staffers described their experiences at the network leading up to its recent closure. Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the signing of nondisclosure agreements, they described a work environment with ever-shifting priorities from leadership that never settled on a strategy to develop their audience. That same leadership was sometimes absent from day-to-day operations, according to the workers interviewed, who felt they often leaned on the G4 name and other nostalgic show brands and struggled to reconcile the differences between broadcasting on linear television compared to online platforms like YouTube and Twitch.
Ex-G4 workers and outside talent familiar with the network’s expenditures also noted how it would pay grand sums to hosts and guests with robust streaming audiences, while shrinking staff size demanded more work from off-camera employees.
“We understand that G4 employees are disappointed, and we are too,” Scott wrote in a statement to The Post. “Everyone will have their own opinions, but as with any start-up, we all worked hard to make G4 successful. We’ll continue to support our teammates through this time.”
Comcast announced the return of G4, a network dedicated to gaming culture, in July of 2020. The period was something of a boom time for the video game industry, with gaming on the rise following the onset of the covid-19 pandemic and young viewers flocking to online platforms like Twitch and YouTube, which served as the preferred platforms of that audience’s beloved content creators.
The original incarnation of G4 had been dormant since 2014. While it never achieved mainstream popularity, shows like humorous game review vehicle “X-Play” and pop culture variety hour “Attack of the Show” struck a chord with geeky audiences who struggled to find television programming that catered to their interests. As the YouTube and Twitch generation shifted away from traditional television, many content creators drew inspiration from the irreverent antics of G4 hosts like Adam Sessler, Morgan Webb and Kevin Pereira.
The new G4 returned with a flashy and expensive new studio facility and a soft launch in early 2021. It was greeted with excitement and a wave of nostalgia, but ex-G4 employees and contractors with whom The Post spoke said that despite lofty ambitions and a talented staff with exciting and creative ideas, G4 immediately lacked direction. During its 10-month revival, shows regularly changed format and platform in response to viewership numbers and trends. The significant, numerous and rapid changes, the workers said, threw planning into chaos.
Additionally, a controversial segment by “X-Play” host Indiana “Froskurinn” Black, in which Black called out sexism within the show’s audience, led to sustained harassment of Black and other talent. G4’s inert response inflamed tension among cast members, employees said.
Though sometimes heralded as recession-proof, the video game industry has recently faced economic head winds. A growing number of companies, ranging from upstarts like G4 to tech behemoths like Google and Microsoft, have scaled down their ambitions, shuttered projects and divisions and let go of employees. VENN, a streaming network similar to G4 funded by venture capital firms and billed as the MTV of video games, launched in August 2020 and shut down just a year later. One former VENN employee described the business to Input as “top to bottom, a complete, colossal failure.”