"We didn't start selling this until two weeks ago," said Debra Green, chief operating officer for G4 Media, the company formed to run the channel. Conversations with other cable operators have been "very positive" so far, she said.
Comcast officials could not say yet what other cable systems might carry the channel. There also was no definitive word on what adding the channel might do to customers' rates, but officials said they expected to set advertising rates and carriage agreements so that the channel would be widely available.
G4 executives unveiled plans for the channel yesterday at the Western Show, a cable industry convention in Anaheim, Calif.
A promotional video for the new channel opens in 1972, showing a game of the seminal video game Pong in session.
The video then fades to the present, with frenetic edits of realistic action games flashing to a narrated backbeat of industry statistics:
145 million U.S. gamers.
Console-game revenue totaling $8 billion in 2000.
Gamers touted as likely buyers of new technology.
The channel's target audience is males 12 to 34 years old, a demographic group prized by advertisers for its willingness to spend.
G4, which will be based in Los Angeles, initially will feature 13 weekly series and other shows covering various facets of electronic gaming: previews, documentaries, contests, news and game tips. It will cover the entire electronic-gaming spectrum, including games played on consoles such as the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, as well as computer games, online games, handhelds, cell-phone games, and arcade games.
Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, a game-industry trade group, compared the launch of G4 to the launch of MTV, the ubiquitous music-television franchise.
"People laughed at MTV 20 years ago," Lowenstein said. "And now MTV is indisputably one of the most influential cultural forces in the world."
He invited doubters to look at the numbers: Since the beginning of the year, the Bear Stearns Interactive Entertainment index is up 42 percent, while the stock market overall has been in descent, he said.
Nathan Solomon, a spokesman for Electronics Boutique Holdings Corp., a game retailer based in West Chester, said that his company did not know much about G4 yet, but that its introduction probably bodes well for the industry.
"Anything that speaks about games to an eager audience is obviously fantastic from our point of view," Solomon said. "It's kind of indicative of the growth of the games industry. A few years ago, people would not have been thinking about doing this."
The channel was conceived by Charles Hirschhorn, former president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation. His career credits include development of the movies The Joy Luck Club, Quiz Show, and The Santa Clause, as well as the Fox comedy series In Living Color.
Hirschhorn, chief executive officer of G4 Media, said in a telephone interview that he approached Comcast with the idea in January 2000, and that "it was a fairly simple conversation" given the apparent appeal of video games even then.
"It seemed like an obvious opportunity," Hirschhorn said.
Dale Strang, who oversees game magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and Computer Gaming World for publisher Ziff Davis Media Inc., said that a video-game channel was a "logical next step" for the industry, but that it also has several inherent challenges.
Among them: How do you create television programs so stirring that gamers put down their joysticks long enough to watch?
Strang said, however, that he has known Hirschhorn for years, and that, if anyone can pull it off, Hirschhorn can.
"I think someone smart and well-funded is going to have success," Strang said.
The G4 announcement is evidence that non-gamers are awakening to the importance of the industry, he said, adding: "It's big, it's here, and it's more and more mainstream."
Akweli Parker's e-mail address is email@example.com.