Zodd: Don't you think we can do a little better than DTV?Zodd: Yeah, but you know how these specialty cable networks are: they start out real good, but then they lose their focus and things go downhill real quick. Just look at what happened to G4!
Phil: Why, what's wrong with DTV? It's television for demons, we're demons -- it's perfect.
Tech TV was a cable television network launched in 1998 to capitalize on the rapidly-increasing technology boom. As a network devoted entirely to timely, topical, and good programming about technology and the internet, TechTV (originally ZDTV, after original parent company Ziff-Davis) quickly became a popular source for news and commentary about the tech world.
In 2000, when the network rebranded itself as TechTV following the purchase of ZDNet by rival CNet (and the network's assets being sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), it launched a major push into live programming with a nine-hour live block. This eventually mutated into several live or semi-live shows, including The Screen Savers, Unscrewed With Martin Sargent, and Call For Help. (There were also a handful of taped shows, including video game review show Gamespot TV -- later renamed into Extended Play and then eventually renamed to just X-Play.) Late into its run, the network also broadcast a handful of Anime programs (including Soul Taker and Crest of the Stars).
TechTV had always had money issues, which manifested as layoffs throughout the early part of its life. Its major cable carriage was from sister company Charter Communications (which is well known in the cable industry as a struggling company). The September 11th attacks doomed the long-form tech news format -- which had already been struggling, since there are only so many ways to talk about tech companies without seeming redundant -- and the rise of RSS feeds made it beyond easy to track one company online than through Tech Live's linear news format.
The network rebounded in 2003, though, thanks to new shows (specifically Unscrewed) which debuted in that year. This was shortly after Comcast dropped Tech TV from its lineups nationwide, though -- in favor of its own G4 network, which focused on video games instead of technology. (There are rumors that this was done to devalue TechTV in advance of...well, read on.)
In 2004, Comcast bought TechTV and merged it with G4, then issued an ultimatum to the casts and crews of all of TechTV's shows: "Move to Los Angeles or you're fired." Most of the staff and talent chose Option B, which was wise -- nearly everyone who picked Option A got their shows cancelled. The few shows that were left suffered from meddling to an absurd degree. As of 2011, the one show from the TechTV days that still runs on G4 is X-Play (its original host, Adam Sessler, was still with the network until 2012). The Screen Savers was eventually retooled into G4's Attack of the Show; that show is still active, but it now bares little resemblance to its original parent program, barring a brief segment that reviews new tech gadgets. G4 itself has abandoned both its original focus (video games) and TechTV's (technology) in favor of becoming a slightly nerdier alternative to Spike TV. Many who enjoyed the original formats of TechTV and pre-merger G4 have been quite vocal with their displeasure, and it's popularity has faded a great deal since then, although a few hit shows like X-Play and Attack of the Show have kept it relevant. To put in perspective, the premiere of Proving Ground got 31,000 viewers, less than the population of Juneau, Alaska, while the UFC passed by the opportunity to own G4 for their own network for a deal with Fox. DirecTV even found so little to value in the network that they dropped it, and DirecTV almost never drops networks in comparison with Dish Network.
TechTV gave rise to a few individuals who still offer tech-oriented websites and/or podcasts on the internet. Some of the names below were already known in the tech world prior to TechTV, while others first came to prominence thanks to the network:
- Leo Laporte (Co-host of The Screen Savers and Call For Help; now runs the TWiT Network)
- Patrick Norton (Co-host of The Screen Savers; now part of Revision3)
- Kevin Rose (Host of ~Attack Of The Show!~; co-created Digg and now runs Revision3, and works for Google, who acquired his startup for a good amount of money)
- Alex Albrecht (Host of The Screen Savers post-merger; now part of Revision3)
- Adam Sessler (The original host of Gamespot TV/Extended Play; co-hosted X-Play until he abruptly left in 2012)
- Morgan Webb (Co-host of X-Play who started out as on-screen talent for The Screen Savers; still co-hosting X-Play)
- Martin Sargent (Host of Unscrewed who also started out as on-screen talent for The Screen Savers; now out of the business and working in advertising)