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Ratings In for Esquire Network Launch

Although NBC said the network would be available in 75 million homes, the channel has had trouble luring in even a fraction of that audience.

PETIT PUBLIC: It’s been about three months since Esquire introduced its television channel, aptly dubbed the Esquire Network, and viewers have begun to vote on its entertainment value. Broadcast by NBC Universal since Sept. 23, the network supplanted the Style channel with new programming meant to appeal to a sophisticated male audience — the kind that would read Esquire magazine.

Although NBC said Esquire would be available in 75 million homes, the channel has had trouble luring in even a fraction of that audience, amassing an average household viewership of 55,000 during prime time, according to data supplied by Nielsen.

That average, taken from the week of Oct. 8 through the week of Dec. 3, measured viewing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Within that prime-time period, Esquire has launched a trove of original shows, including “White Collar Brawlers,” which pits coworkers against each other in a boxing ring; “Risky Listing,” a New York nightlife real estate show; “How I Rock It,” a series hosted by Baron Davis of the NBA’s New York Knicks about style setters, and “Alternative Route,” a travel-centric show set in the U.S.

Making its debut in mid-November, the new programs gave the network a ratings bump of 82,000 homes, or 109,000 viewers. However, in the weeks preceding and immediately following those debuts, only between 42,000 and 54,000 homes tuned in to the network. Nielsen was unable to provide estimates for the number of actual viewers for those weeks because ratings were too low to meet its “minimum-reporting standard,” a spokesperson told WWD.

Despite the numbers, a representative from Esquire TV trumpeted the fact that the network launched eight new series and three original specials since September, and that it will tack on another 15 to 20 original programs in 2014. She declined comment on the viewership figures themselves, and Jack Essig, the magazine’s senior vice president, publishing director and chief revenue officer, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Although ratings were not readily available for Style, Nielsen provided prime-time ratings statistics from rival channels such as Spike and G4, the network NBC had originally considered phasing out in favor of the Esquire Network.

Well, NBC may regret not replacing G4. The gaming channel didn’t hit Nielsen’s minimum-reporting threshold for the comparable period — apart from one week in October when the network registered viewership from 31,000 homes.

Spike, on the other hand, logged 653,000 homes tuning in, or 892,000 viewers on average. Although it is not a male-targeted channel, Nielsen also provided ratings for Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN, which, like her magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, is an extension of her brand. OWN logged an average of 339,000 homes, or 411,000 viewers, for the period. For the first 13 weeks after it launched on Jan. 1, 2011, to March 27, 2011, OWN was viewed in 260,000 homes by about 317,000 viewers.

Too bad the folks at Esquire didn’t option something like “Duck Dynasty” — it attracted 11.8 million viewers for the premiere of its fourth season last August.

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