Esquire Network Targets Men With New Food/Drink Shows

By Graham Kates  |  September 25, 2013
Credit: Esquire Network

They say, “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” which perhaps explains NBCUniversal’s thought process in choosing two culinary pilots — Knife Fight and Brew Dogs — to lead off the launch of its brand new Esquire Network.

Just moments after the now-defunct Style Network aired one last repeat of Tia and Tamara early Monday morning, the channel left women behind, rebranded as the television iteration of the magazine geared toward stylish men.

What does that mean?

In terms of rhetoric, it means “knock down, brutal” cooking battles, beer and kitchen “war zones.” In terms of execution, it means cooking competition and travel shows that could just as well fit on the Travel Channel or Food Network.

At first glance, Knife Fight exudes a wannabe Fight Club feel (dudes loved that movie, right?). A crowd is gathered in host Ilan Hall’s kitchen in the basement of his LA eatery The Gorbals after hours ready to watch a brawl. But once the two chefbatants are introduced, the show quickly becomes something more like Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

They're competing against each other and the clock and then their dishes are judged. Sound familiar? It should. But is this what men dig?

Next up Esquire aired Brew Dogs, a show that follows Scottish craft brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie — the founders of BrewDog — on their quest to “convert one million craft beer virgins.”

Where Knife Fight fails (uniqueness), Brew Dogs excel. In a cable universe run amok with food-based travel shows, Brew Dogs takes viewers to places typically ignored or mentioned only marginally - breweries. The first episode, an exploration of San Diego’s India Pale Ale culture featured lists of breweries to visit while in town and the “Top 5 Craft Beer Bars.”

And perhaps more important than its recommendation is the actual science of the show. It doubles as a basic primer on the process of brewing. Faced with the challenge of setting up a nanobrewery in a train car, the Brew Dogs duo takes the audience on a step-by-step tour of the parts and steps needed to homebrew.

Together Brew Dogs and Knife Fight offer competing visions for what the future of a men’s-oriented network can be. But will Esquire ultimately skew toward re-creations of what other networks are doing, or more original products like its brewing series?

As it guesses on the whims of male viewers, the early odds should lean towards Esquire becoming something that looks a lot like other cable channels.

When the network’s president, Adam Stotsky, was asked in a recent interview with TheWrap.com if he’d stick to find a “cornerstone show” like Real Housewives or The Kardashians, he replied that “would be great.”

So long Brew Dogs, and hello to a channel that may end up looking a lot like the Style Network it replaced.