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NBCU shutting cable's Esquire Network, re-launching as digital

By Tim Baysinger

By Tim Baysinger

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal is shutting down its Esquire Network cable channel, one month after it was dropped by DirecTV, and will re-launch it this spring as a digital-only brand, the company said on Wednesday.

Esquire will return as a direct-to-consumer service on Esquire.com, which will house all its existing programming and new shows that were slated for the TV channel including "Borderland USA" and "Edgehill."

Smaller cable channels such as Esquire are finding themselves vulnerable as more consumers cut back on pay-TV services, dropping their packages entirely or opting for a so-called "skinny bundle" of fewer channels.

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The move by NBCU comes a month after AT&T Inc decided to drop Esquire from its DirecTV and U-Verse offerings.

Major providers such as DirecTV and Dish Network Corp have also launched slimmed-down streaming packages of live TV channels that omit many smaller networks. Esquire is currently only available on Sony Corp’s PlayStation Vue service.

"Men today consume content on a variety of platforms and it is essential that we follow our viewers," Adam Stotsky, president of Esquire and NBCU's E! Entertainment channel, said in a statement.

Esquire Network debuted in 2013 when NBCU re-branded it from what used to be the Style Network. The channel was a partnership between the Comcast Corp unit and Hearst Corp, which owns the magazine on which the network was based.

NBCU was aiming to appeal to the same affluent, male audience as the magazine, trying to position itself as an upscale option to other male-focused TV networks like Viacom's Spike.

(Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by Daniel Wallis)