TechTV
Country United States
AffiliatesKTQW-CA
HeadquartersSan Francisco, California
Programming
Language(s)English
Ownership
Owner1998-2000 Ziff Davis
2000-2004 Vulcan Inc.
2004 G4 Media
1998-2004 EchoStar/Dish Network (minority percentage)
History
Launched
  • May 11, 1998; 25 years ago (1998-05-11)
  • (as ZDTV)
ClosedMay 28, 2004; 19 years ago (2004-05-28)
Replaced by2004-2005 G4techTV
2005-2014, 2021-2022 G4
Former namesZDTV (1998–2000)

TechTV was a 24-hour cable and satellite channel based in San Francisco featuring news and shows about computers, technology, and the Internet. In 2004, it merged with the G4 gaming channel which ultimately dissolved TechTV programming. At the height of its six-year run, TechTV was broadcast in 70 countries, reached 43 million households, and claimed 1.9 million unique visitors monthly to its website.[1] A focus on personality-driven product reviews and technical support made it a cultural hub for technology information worldwide, still existing today online through its former hosts' webcasts, most notably the TWiT Network.

The offices were located at 650 Townsend Street, 94103,[2] and the studios, of which there were two, were located at 535 York Street, 94110.[3]

History

Origins

On August 20, 1994, computer magazine publisher Ziff Davis entered the television industry with the premiere of The Personal Computing Show, a program that aired on Saturday mornings on CNBC, America's Talking and the Jones Computing Network. The Personal Computing Show, co-hosted by Jim Louderback and Gina Smith, targeted a growing demographic of personal computer owners and demonstrated how to purchase, install, maintain and repair personal computers and peripheral devices such as printers. Shortly after The Personal Computing Show's premiere, Ziff Davis revealed plans to produce a second show in October 1994 named PC Update, a half-hour Sunday morning news program hosted by Leo Laporte and focusing on the computer industry.[4][5] According to Ziff Davis spokesman Gregory Jarboe, The Personal Computing Show was unsuccessful due to its relegation to odd channels and timeslots.[6] When Ziff Davis' sale to investment firm Forstmann Little & Company was announced in October 1994, a small Foster City-based television operation named "ZD-TV" was listed as a company asset.[7]

In April 1996, Ziff Davis announced the establishment of ZDTV as a San Francisco-based unit specializing in the production of television and internet broadcasts, which would allow the publisher to showcase its products. Its first project was to develop The Site, a daily hour-long prime time news show co-hosted by Soledad O'Brien about the increasing social and economic effects of technology. The program aired on the cable news network MSNBC, which launched on July 15, 1996.[8][9] It was the third San Francisco-based television program specializing in technology after CNET Central and Cyberlife.[10] According to Ziff Davis chief executive Larry Wangberg,[6] San Francisco was chosen as ZDTV's headquarters for its proximity to Silicon Valley and easy access to Multimedia Gulch-based talent.[11]

On May 6, 1997, Ziff Davis announced its plan to launch ZDTV as a 24-hour interactive cable network specializing in computers and the Internet. The publisher put $100 million behind the project and planned to debut the ZDTV channel in early 1998. Projected programming for the channel included talk shows on the impact of technology, business-oriented shows evaluating investments in high-tech stocks, and reviews of software and hardware.[12] Children's programming was also planned for the weekends.[13] The channel had 11 initial charter advertisers, including IBM, Gateway 2000, Microsoft, and Charles Schwab.[12] Ziff Davis chairman and CEO Eric Hippeau cited the increasing presence of computers in cable television homes and workspaces as motivation for filling the niche of programming about computers, saying "This is a huge audience and it will only get bigger".[13] Wangberg, who would be made the network's CEO, proclaimed Ziff Davis' ambition of ZDTV becoming "to computing what CNN is to news, what ESPN is to sports".[11] Although Ziff Davis intended to continue producing The Site for MSNBC following ZDTV's launch,[14] the show was canceled in September 1997 as a result of the network's shift toward an all-news format.[6][15] In December 1997, Ziff Davis revealed at the Western Cable Trade Show in Anaheim that it had secured agreements with four cable operators to carry the network: Prime Cable in Las Vegas, Harron Communications in Detroit, Televue in Georgia, and Prestige Cable in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.[6]

ZDTV

ZDTV logo

ZDTV was initially set to launch at the end of 1998's first quarter, but was delayed by Ziff Davis' initial public offering, which was announced on February 18.[11] The network launched on Monday May 11, 1998, on cable systems in Las Vegas, Detroit, parts of Georgia near Atlanta and parts of Maine.[16] An early adopter of ZDTV was Paul Allen's Charter Communications, which began carrying the channel in Newnan, Georgia in July 1998.[17] On August 1, 1998, ZDTV was broadcast in its native San Francisco when the channel struck a deal with DirecTV to become available on Channel 273 via the providers' satellite dishes.[18] In November 1998, Allen's holding company Vulcan Ventures invested $54 million in ZDTV, granting it a 33 percent stake in the network.[19]

Although ZDTV was critically acclaimed, it struggled to gain a foothold in AT&T/TCI cable lineups,[20] and was deemed unprofitable. In an effort to sell company assets to reduce debt and boost its share price,[21] Ziff Davis put ZDTV up for sale on July 16, 1999. In November 1999, Vulcan purchased the remaining two-thirds in a transaction that was completed on January 21, 2000. The deal (which permitted the network to retain its name) was worth $204.8 million.[20][22] On August 21, 2000, ZDTV announced that it would be changing its name to TechTV the following month, and would simultaneously be added to AT&T and Time Warner Cable's digital cable lineups.[23][24]

TechTV

On September 18, 2000, ZDTV was renamed TechTV, and a new on-air strategy was announced along with several new series including the music-technology series, AudioFile. Soon, TechTV made a huge commitment to enter into live broadcasting when it launched a nine-hour experimental news program called TechLive in April 2001. The show, which catered to day traders and business types, never caught on with TechTV's audience. In November 2001, following a massive round of layoffs, TechLive was divided into three one-hour shows. In the spring of 2002, TechLive was cut further into just one thirty-minute daily news magazine show, with a focus less on tech news and more on how technology changed people's lives.

Beginning March 15, 2001, TechTV experienced repeated layoffs.[25] In 2002, Silicon Spin (an opinion forum hosted by PC Magazine editor John C. Dvorak from the original ZDTV launched in May 1998) and AudioFile (a show for digital music enthusiasts launched in August 2000) were canceled, with its hosts being absorbed onto other network programs. 2003 saw the introduction of several new shows (such as Performance, Robot Wars, and Unscrewed with Martin Sargent).

In late 2001 and early 2002, many Comcast cable systems dropped TechTV from their channel lineups. At the time, some viewers speculated that this was done to eliminate a competitor to the Comcast-owned G4. When Comcast's G4 Media acquired TechTV and merged it with G4 in 2004, a second theory emerged, which suggested that Comcast's actual motive was to lower TechTV's value, and ultimately its asking price.

TechTV was also broadcast over the air on KTQW in Wichita, Kansas until the TechTV name was dropped during the G4 merger.[26]

International distribution

A Canadian version of TechTV launched on September 7, 2001, as a joint venture of TechTV, Rogers Media, and Shaw Communications. The channel would later become G4techTV Canada to coincide with the American merger of TechTV and G4. The channel would change its name once again in mid-2009 to G4 Canada. In 2004, TechTV launched on Foxtel Digital in Australia. After the merger with G4, TechTV (then called G4techTV) left Australia lineups as its international feed ceased. On Malaysia's ASTRO platform, repeats of the international feed was run for some time after the international feed ceased before starting to import G4TV programming and retransmitting them locally on the same channel as the public educational service TV Pendidikan from 2002 to 2006. In Japan, Sony's So-net channel aired several TechTV programs until the fall of 2005 (they aired reruns after May 2004). In New Zealand, TechTV aired on Saturn Communications's channel 34 until May 2004. In addition to those countries, TechTV was broadcast internationally in the United Kingdom.

Merger and consolidation

On March 25, 2004, Comcast's G4 gaming channel announced a merger with TechTV. This move became hugely controversial among loyal fans of TechTV and Leo Laporte, who, because of a contract dispute with Vulcan, left the channel. Shows with Laporte, including The Screen Savers and Call for Help, continued on with remaining staff taking over his hosting duties.

Around May 6, 2004, G4 announced the termination of 250 employees from the San Francisco office by July 16, 2004, allowing approximately 80 to 100 employees to transition to G4's main office in Los Angeles if they agreed to relocate there.[27] Shows from TechTV that were not redundant to G4's offerings continued on until July, when the closing of the TechTV Offices would close the respective stages for these shows in turn.

On May 10, 2004, G4 Media completed the acquisition of TechTV from Vulcan. G4techTV was launched in the U.S. on May 28, 2004. This led to the cancellation of many of the TechTV channels throughout carriers across the world (e.g.: systems with both channels active, systems limiting Comcast's number of channels on their lineup, etc.) On January 3, 2005, TechTV International began airing select programs from G4techTV. After the closure deadline passed on July 16, 2004, only Los Angeles produced shows would air on the new channel. The final production originating at TechTV in San Francisco was the September 2, 2004, episode of The Screen Savers (which was taped on July 16, 2004).

On February 15, 2005, the TechTV brand was dropped from the United States G4techTV feed, leaving the network name as G4 – Video Game Television which also echoed the changes in programming made to the channel due to the merger for both G4's original offering and the greatly diminished TechTV originated shows (exceptions noted below); after that, G4 went through a rebranding and changed most of its programming to position itself as a male-oriented network.

TechTV shows and personalities who survived the merger

The Screen Savers survived somewhat in Attack of the Show!, remaining an open-format hosted talk show. On March 17, 2005, the staff made an announcement that they intended to reformat The Screen Savers to better fit the network, including the change of its name (a computer term for a program to protect a monitor from burned-in imagery, which no longer fit when The Screen Savers stopped covering computer self-help and DIY programming). It changed to Attack of the Show (a reference to the Star Wars prequel "Attack of the Clones"), and while still covering technology to a lesser extent, it also covers autos, sports, movies, new products and pop culture. Kevin Rose, Sarah Lane, and Brendan Moran stayed on after the transition to Attack of the Show for a short time, but Rose left on May 27, 2005, and both Lane and Moran left after their marriage on April 6, 2006, marking the final TechTV on-camera staff's exit from the program.

Six TechTV personalities, Kevin Rose, Sarah Lane, Morgan Webb, Adam Sessler, Chi-Lan Lieu and Brendan Moran relocated to Los Angeles to join G4. Only two TechTV shows, Anime Unleashed and X-Play, survived the merger without any major changes. Anime Unleashed (and in turn, all of the anime series which aired on the block) was canceled in March 2006. X-Play was the last TechTV-created show in production under G4 until it was announced in late 2012 that it and Attack of the Show would both be cancelled in December 2012.

In April 2012, Sessler was let go from G4.[28][29] A proper reason was not given, however there have been rumors of a contractual dispute.[30] Sessler was the last of the original hosts from the initial launch of ZDTV in 1998. When the network withdrew all their live programming in December 2012, Blair Butler and Webb were the only remaining TechTV personalities working at G4.

Programs

The following is a partial list of programs aired by TechTV:

Staff

ZDTV's original executive lineup consisted primarily of television veterans; CEO Larry Wangberg was previously CEO of Times Mirror Cable Television, senior vice president of programming Greg Drebin previously served the same position at MTV, and news director Harry Fuller previously worked for KPIX-TV and KGO-TV.[31]

Show personalities

The personalities of TechTV include Leo Laporte, Kate Botello, Alison Strahan, Roger Chang, Yoshi DeHerrera, John C. Dvorak, Carmine Gallo, Ali Hossaini, James Kim, Kris Kosach, Pam Krueger, Chris Leary, Chi-Lan Lieu, Jim Louderback, Tom Merritt, Megan Morrone, Patrick Norton, SuChin Pak, Michaela Pereira, Bill Rafferty, Kevin Rose, Alison Strahan Martin Sargent, Catherine Schwartz, Adam Sessler, Laura Swisher, Morgan Webb, Tammy Cavadias and Liam Mayclem.

Many former hosts of TechTV programs have gone on to create new programs distributed online: Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech, Chris Pirillo's live.pirillo.com, Systm, thebroken, From The Shadows, commandN, Diggnation, Infected with Martin Sargent, DL.TV, CrankyGeeks, InDigital, East Meets West, and Weezy and the Swish are some of the shows produced by alumni.

Leo Laporte hosted Call for Help which aired until April 6, 2007. It was revamped and renamed The Lab with Leo Laporte and was shown on G4techTV Canada and the Australian HOW TO Channel. The show was filmed in HD and Laporte hoped to have it picked up by an American network. The series has since been cancelled due to poor ratings.

Kevin Rose, who worked on "The Screen Savers" and "Unscrewed with Martin Sargent", co-founded Digg which he featured on "The Screen Savers" in 2004,[32] was hired by Google in March 2012, along with many of the employees at Rose's mobile app incubator called Milk.[33]

Former personalities

Virtual characters

Many of the founding staff of ZDTV had previously worked on MSNBC's The Site, which featured Dev Null, a virtual animated character voiced by Leo Laporte who interacted with host Soledad O'Brien. Improving on the technology used for Dev Null, ZDTV created two animated virtual characters who appeared as hosts for the network. Dash (voiced first by Paul McKinney and later by Patrick Flick and Chris Manners, with body performance by Jessa Brie Moreno and Slater Penney) and Tilde (voiced by Kate Botello and later by Laura LeBleu, with body performance by Jessa Brie Moreno and Slater Penney, in some support chat appearances Tilde was played by Theresa Quinn, Asst Production Manager) appeared in on-air and online promos for the network. Dash also appeared as a virtual correspondent on the show Internet Tonight in a segment called "The Homepage Hall of Fame" and briefly as the host of "Dash's Animation House."[34]

Reunion

A possible TechTV reunion was announced by Leo Laporte in his blog[35] on July 21, 2006. Further details were also announced by Chris Pirillo on his blog.[36] Nothing further has been mentioned about a reunion of TechTV staff since 2006. Laporte and Patrick Norton, however, did team up for a final skit on the series finale of Attack of the Show.

See also

References

  1. ^ Cramer, Stacie D. (June 17, 2004). "TechTV Fans Mad as Hell". Wired News. Retrieved January 4, 2007.
  2. ^ Fost, Dan; Writer, Chronicle Staff (May 17, 1999). "A Day in the Life of ZDTV's 'The Screen Savers'". SFGate.
  3. ^ "ZIFF-DAVIS TO PREVIEW 'THE SITE' AT SAN FRANCISCO STUDIO - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  4. ^ Coile, Zachary (August 22, 1994). "TV taps need for computer literacy". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 41.
  5. ^ Coile, Zachary (August 22, 1994). "TV taps need for computer literacy". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 46.
  6. ^ a b c d Rafter, Michelle V. (December 29, 1997). "Eye on America". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. 43.
  7. ^ "Ziff-Davis sold for $1.4 billion". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. October 27, 1994. p. 57.
  8. ^ "Softbank's Ziff-Davis starts unit for TV show". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. April 18, 1996. p. 41.
  9. ^ Nessman, Ravi (June 7, 1996). "Original programs on tap for MSNBC". Santa Maria Times. Santa Maria, California. p. 9.
  10. ^ "ZDTV show to run on MSNBC at night". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. June 28, 1996. p. 79.
  11. ^ a b c Armstrong, David (March 29, 1998). "ZDTV cooking up customized cable". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 56.
  12. ^ a b Kelly, Keith J. (May 7, 1997). "TV for PC crowd". Daily News. New York City, New York. p. 56.
  13. ^ a b "Computer TV stakes out territory". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, California. May 7, 1997. p. 32.
  14. ^ "High-tech news 24 hours a day". Thousand Oaks Star. Thousand Oaks, California. May 12, 1997. p. 29.
  15. ^ "Tech TV show canceled". The Modesto Bee. Modesto, California. September 23, 1997. p. 18.
  16. ^ Stone, Martha. "ZDTV launches Monday". ZDNet.
  17. ^ Moss, Linda. "ZDTV Eyes 8M Mark by Year-End". Multichannel.
  18. ^ Abate, Tom (August 1, 1998). "Foreign 'Temp' Workers Run Into Jam on Road to Green Card / While ZDTV looks to attract viewers from Bay Area". SFGate.
  19. ^ "Vulcan Ventures invests in tech TV". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. November 18, 1998. p. 23.
  20. ^ a b Saracevic, Alan T. (November 19, 1999). "Paul Allen buys ZDTV in The City". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 26.
  21. ^ "Ziff-Davis to Sell Stake in ZDTV". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. November 20, 1999. p. 46.
  22. ^ Saracevic, Alan T. (November 19, 1999). "Allen's VC firm buys ZDTV in S.F." The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 25.
  23. ^ Saracevic, Alan T. (August 21, 2000). "Behold: Digital cable's ZDTV rechristened techtv". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 17.
  24. ^ Saracevic, Alan T. (August 21, 2000). "Digital cable's ZDTV rechristened techtv". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 22.
  25. ^ Mariano, Gwendolyn (March 15, 2001). "TechTV reorganizes, lays off employees". News.com. Retrieved December 21, 2007.
  26. ^ "KTQW TechTV Website". Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2006.
  27. ^ Laporte, Leo (May 6, 2004). "Comcast Fires TechTV Staff". Leo Laporte.
  28. ^ Sessler, Adam (May 23, 2014). "Memories Of My 16-Year Career In Video Games". Kotaku.
  29. ^ "Internet Killed The Video Star: The Extraordinary Journey Of Adam Sessler". Kotaku. March 20, 2013.
  30. ^ Schreir, Jason (April 25, 2012). "Adam Sessler Out at G4". Kotaku.
  31. ^ Armstrong, David (March 29, 1998). "ZDTV cooking up customized cable for computerniks". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 47.
  32. ^ Olanoff, Drew (July 12, 2012). "Memories: Kevin Rose introduces a "new site" called Digg on December 13th, 2004". The Next Web.
  33. ^ Gannes, Liz. "Exclusive: Kevin Rose Will Join Google". AllThingsD.
  34. ^ "Spencer F. Katt to Report for ZDTV. - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  35. ^ "TechTV Reunion? - LOL: The Life of Leo". leoville.vox.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2006. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  36. ^ Pirillo, Chris (July 24, 2006). "TechTV: Rebuilt by Community?".