WSJ Says TechTV For Sale

Thanks to Cyrus for sending me this article from today’s Wall St. Journal…

Former Executive Of Microsoft Seeks Buyer for TechTV
By JOE FLINT
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen is trying to sell TechTV, his gadget-and-gizmo cable channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

Companies approached about TechTV include Viacom Inc., parent of cable channels MTV and Nickelodeon, and Sony Corp., which co-owns the Game Show Network with Liberty Media Corp. Spokespeople for Viacom and Sony declined to comment.

The channel, which Mr. Allen’s investment arm Vulcan Ventures Inc. acquired from Ziff-Davis Inc. in 2000 for $320 million, is being valued at between $250 million and $300 million, people familiar with the situation said.

Even though TechTV is in almost 40 million homes, it has yet to turn a profit, though some analysts think that might happen this year. The channel, launched in 1998, is expected to take in about $36 million in ad revenue this year, according to consultants Kagan World Media.

This past May, TechTV said it was retaining investment bankers Greenbridge Partners LLC to look for strategic partners to invest in the channel. A spokeswoman for TechTV declined to comment on the possibility of the channel being sold outright. A spokesman for Vulcan also declined to comment.

Any suitor likely would want to change the channel’s programming, which garners very small ratings. Most of its shows are about technological advances and the implications of those advances, though as of late the channel has tried to get racier. Earlier this year, it launched “Wired for Sex,” a program about how technology is changing sex lives. It also has bought several Japanese animated series known as “anime.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment is giving the channel a hard look. People close to the company say it would like to start a Sony lifestyle network and could use that channel to promote its own electronic products as well as entertainment fare.

Viacom, which has often said it is looking to acquire cable networks and earlier this year acquired the 50% of Comedy Central it didn’t own from AOL Time Warner Inc., could try to convert TechTV into a science-fiction channel. Viacom has in the past indicated a desire to buy or create more niche channels, and science fiction is a niche the company thinks has strong potential. It has expressed interest in Vivendi Universal SA’s Sci Fi Channel, but isn’t now a contender in the auction for Vivendi’s entertainment assets.

Hoo boy.

115 Replies to “WSJ Says TechTV For Sale”

  1. I think we would all know Leo would be able to continue on as one of the world’s best teachers of technology in some form of media (he even talked today about doing a internet radio show from his house on CFH using either Shoutcast or Live365.com). But what about his fellow colleagues at TechTV who are not as entrepreneurial as him? Where would they go? Some of them have already been plucked to MSNBC or CNN and such, but there probably isnt alot of room for everyone to find a regular tv gig. But doesnt this give a wake up to anyone in such a business that you need many forms of incomes in the computer technology world?

  2. Hey I love TechTV and I am willing to boycot anything that replaces it. Techtv is the only channel that you can really learn something from, because the other so called channels, are sad. I don’t know what the big wigs are talking about (Saying that Techtv does not bring in any money), Well all of the electronics I have bought was because I viewed them on TechTV and if these dumb companies honestly think they will still sell computer parts with techtv gone, then they are mistaken and I personally will not buy for sometime if I have to, that is if My TechTV was chased off the air. Well Leo and fam, there is always the net and I would be your number one viewer because I really do think you guy’s are the best and no other station could ever compare.

  3. on one hand, i don’t even have techtv anymore…
    on the other hand, pop watches it now and calls me on the phone specifically to say, “today your guy leo…” (i’ve yet to train pop to give me a “kilt report”, but i’m workin’ on it!)
    HAHA! i betcha no matter who buys techtv, they’ll still keep “unscrewed” around. it could fit into scifi. like, explain the existance of the co-host chick to me (that also applies to “x-play”, come to think of it…). that’s just gotta be a conspiracy! and um… it fits into sony cause um… um… i don’t know ANYTHING about sony except that our stereo system at home is made by sony and it’s rather outdated… ooh! if food network bought it, they could make martin the american iron chef and he could make some sort of road kill tempura!
    yah. not too much of this has to do with lucious leo, but, what’cha gonna do? i’m sleepy and without techtv!

  4. Leo could host a “Mystery Science Theater” like show. Maybe not, his head would block out the screen.
    It will be a sad day when they pull the plug on Techtv. This new programming direction the channel has been on is an embarrassment. The new edginess of TSS has been horrible. What happened to the Tech on TSS? Reoccurring show segments that target a small percentage of an already small Tech audience have caused many to tune out.
    You’ll land on your feet Leo. We’ll follow you to your new home.

  5. Leo, don’t forget the fact you are the only one on air at techtv that was there when it launched in 1998 as ZDTV remember that post from before…. Yeah, I know you do…. I hope that it wont become a sci-fi channel don’t we get enough of that already!! I mean really, the sci-fi channels on DirecTV (total of 3 of them) plus the anime show on techtv is already too much for me. I really am getting tired of all the sci-fi. I also thing if Sony does buy it it will have a new show in replace of X-Play, Play the Playstation 3. Now that would be a bad show. LONG LIVE THE CURRENT TECHTV!!
    Sincerely,
    Ryan Veltidi
    http://www.veltidi.tk

  6. I don’t know much about the economics of programming production. What is the cost difference between taped programming and live broadcasts. Since live broadcasts other than news are extremely rare today, I can only assume it’s more economical to tape. I guess total production time could be limited to 20 or 30 weeks as in a tv series, and better polished in post production. I would hope at least some of the original programming would be an asset in the sell, and would continue for a season or two. Such a purchase would have to have some regulatory examination, and should take several months for final approval. Today things are more complicated because this type of acquisition involves stock trades as well as cash. It’s not like the on air talent at TechTV are pulling multi-million dollar salaries that needs to be immediately cut. What I’m hoping for is that no radical changes would be implemented before next Spring. That would give people a little breathing space to evaluate the future.

  7. John, that petition will be fruitless. If you were Vulcan Ventures, would you want to hold onto the channel? They’ve already lost major northeast markets thanks to players like Comcast cable favoring their own channel (G4), they haven’t turned a profit in 5 years and its a slim maybe they will this year, the value of the network is taking ($320 million – $250 million = $70 million drop), and quite frankly it’s become so gratuitous viewers aren’t interested in the fluff anymore.
    Vulcan Ventures was quite possibly the worst thing that happened to TechTV, as we saw with the horror that was TechLive (STUPID TICKER!), and quite frankly no good can come out of them holding on to it. A good move would be for ZD to buy it back for less than what they sold it for. A bad move would be Sony buying it. The worst move would be Viacom buying it. Quite frankly, I don’t care who gets it, because Comcast feels G4 is what I should watch instead, I don’t get the channel, so I’m just going to watch this whole saga play out from a distance.

  8. If a Different network were to pick up TSS after techtv was bought, and maybe get TSS into syndication, it’d still be hard to air past epsiodes. the Tech aspect of it moves so quick, airing anything from 3 months ago seems outdated and useless. it’d good for nostalgia and some basi info, but when it comes down to it, TSS needs to be fresh and live in order for its original purpose to be surved.
    All techtv needed was to get teh shows purposes served better.
    Split it up, get your help shows, with hard core techies on TSS. When calls arent being taken, focus on main tech like stories (Defcon adn otehr events fit nicely into this) and jsut focus on real tech. CFH (Chris pirillo style) was fine. It was a little wacky at times but it worked. Fresh gear had one purpose. And it worked great. Now its jsut all over the place with several people, and the same segments are shown on different shows and re-aired again on ‘new’ episodes.
    Shows Like X-Play And Unscrewed are fine in their own little genre in the ‘night’ block. fill in the time where robot wars and spy school adn such air with the content that counts. re-airings of TSS and CFh arent bad, and Even something like Eyedrops wasnt bad to watch when nothing was on.
    Specials like “The big Screen Screen Savers” were great too. it was like dinner and a movie on the food network, only not. If they shown movies like short circuit and such, it’d be even better.
    Old shows such as max and thunderbirds never belonged there. Keep that on sci-fi or whatever. TechLive Was Alright in its older format, now its just using the same stories CFH and TSS cover in their hour of show. TSS Could say a story, and then, you tune in an hour later, and see the same story. It just gets boring. Show some show seperation here.
    Techtv’s new show “Invent this” Isnt the best thing to happen as it looks, but its an ok block of programming to fir into the mid-day/sunday re-airing block. After CFH perhaps.
    Shows Like Wired for sex arent bad when they arent focused on all porn. tehre are some aspects that can be used that arent so bad, really. Air it On Saturday nights once a week, and call it good.
    I wouldnt mind seeing a real life type ech show either. Like,a documentary type show. The life ofa geek. Follow some kida round and show how he uses technology, and get the real big thinkers on tv.
    Which reminds me, Big thinkers Wasnt a bad show either. I thought of it more as “Sunday” Programming. Tomorrow’s world was bland, and no fun to watch, and not even interesting.
    Shows like Future fighting machienes arent bad in their new form and season, but Not my personal pick.
    Well, Im done yacking, I doubt ya’ll read that, but, thats otay!
    Wherever TECHtv lands, I’ll be there to see where it goes.
    -Aaron

  9. oh man – i had a bad feeling that this would be coming along some day. one of the few channels on television that i actually like. of course, i will admit that the programming has been shifing away from my core viewing habits – and skewing more towards the pre-pub male audience with some of the new programs. gotta tell you – the first mistake was not letting us see TSS twice a night. no offense to the anime fans or martin, but TSS kicks eithers butt.
    if it makes you feel any better – vulcan ventures has managed to quite quickly show that they follow the old adage about investing in airlines – “how do you make a million investing in an airline? start with two million.” everything that allen touches starts to slowly sink away and then when it’s sold – voila… starts to make money.
    r.

  10. Leo,
    The book I want to read is the one about how NOT to run a network once Techtv goes away. Watching any in-house produced shows outside of CFH is getting harder and harder. I continue to watch because I hunger for Tech. In the good old days of 354 you feed me a balanced meal. Now I sit at the table like a dog waiting for scraps!
    This thing could have worked Leo.

  11. Leo darling, throw us a bone. Your adoring public is anxiously awaiting the fate of TechTV. Your the only reason many of us keep a TV. If they take you off the air you’ll have to turn your farm into a commune. We’ll go there to live and you can the high priest of tech. That is as long as you don’t go Jim Jones like. Just pass along the latest scoop using the post name of Alfred E. Neuman, the TPTB will never know.

  12. Leo TSS&CFH are the only shows on TV where you can actually learn something anymore. Without these 2 shows I’d never have been able to use my computer as effectively as I do. That doesn’t even count making my kids think I actually know something about computers. Leo, I also have cerebral palsy and your shows are the only ones I’ve ever seen that show what a blessing computers are to people with disabilities. Thank you for that, more than I can ever say. Time and time again TSS&CFH have come to my aid through the search engine on the web, or on TV. You and the people you work with are a blessing on the face of this Earth.

  13. I agree with the comments about getting more and not less geeky on the channel.
    I think they messed up when they took off the re-air of TSS in the evening and they have gone downhill since then.
    You would think, with all the CRAP on TV that someone could figure out how to make the GOOD STUFF (tss, cfh, xplay, etc.) work.
    What about cheaper/shorter spots for the dedicated tech companyies (cisco, novell, etc.). Works in radio (who cares if you sell 1 $100.00 spot or 4 short $25.00 spots, the end result is the same ?).
    Leo and gang: keep up the good work. I have a small computer consulting/web design business and I owe a lot of my initial (and continuing) education to you guys. Thanks.
    Here’s hoping all goes well….
    Peace….
    Tyson

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