In an another ominous sign for niche cable channels, AT&T has decided to drop Esquire Network, the lifestyle channel jointly launched by NBCUniversal and magazine publisher Hearst in 2013 on the back of the erstwhile Style Network.
With the drop, Esquire will lose reach in about 11 million DirecTV homes and about 4 million U-verse residences. The channel, which was distributed in more than 70 million pay-TV homes at launch, will be left with only around 45 million. Dish Network also dropped Esquire earlier this year.
“We routinely modify our channel lineups based on many factors, while continuing to strive to offer more choice, control and convenience to our customers,” AT&T said.
News of AT&T’s decision to ditch Esquire was originally reported by TV Predictions.
Esquire’s reality/lifestyle programming includes "Friday Night Tykes," "American Ninja Warrior," "Team Ninja Warrior," "Car Matchmaker," "Wrench Against The Machine," and "Joyride."
The channel’s audience is small—so tiny that Nielsen once said it couldn’t measure it.
The steady demise of Esquire comes as other niche channels are also falling by the wayside. Well-funded indie lifestyle channel Pivot, for example, waved the white flag in August.
This was right around the time that NBCU CEO Steve Burke warned the media business that a number of smaller networks would face the abyss amid pay-TV’s move to more streamlined channel bundling.
"You'll see us and others trimming channels," Burke said during Comcast's second-quarter earnings conference call in late July. "There are just too many networks."
Burke specifically noted that NBCU networks Style and G4 were replaced by Esquire.
"We will continue to invest what we need to invest into our bigger channels, and we'll continue to trim the smaller ones,” he said.