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TechTV lays off San Francisco staff

The technology cable channel hands 285 employees their walking papers, a move that was widely feared by workers after Comcast announced in March that it would acquire TechTV.

TechTV told 285 San Francisco employees on Thursday that their jobs are being eliminated, a move that was widely feared by workers after Comcast announced in March that it would acquire the technology cable channel.

Comcast will merge TechTV, owned by Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, with its own G4 video game network when the buyout is finalized next week. David Shane, a spokesman for G4 TV, said the company plans to hire 80 people from the San Francisco office to work at the game channel's Los Angeles headquarters. Employees were given two months notice and various severance packages, he said.

"Today we gave notice to 285 employees that they'll be impacted by the merger," Shane said. "We wanted to give employees as much notice as possible so that they can begin to make other plans."

G4 plans to maintain the San Francisco office as a production facility run by a few employees, Shane said. G4 currently employs 205 people in Los Angeles and a small sales staff in New York.

TechTV, which magazine publisher Ziff Davis Media launched as ZDTV in 1998, broadcasts technology- and Internet-related programs. Microsoft co-founder Allen acquired a majority stake in TechTV in 1999.

In March, Comcast announced it would buy the TV network for an undisclosed sum, with the aim of expanding its G4 technology and gaming channel to 44 million cable and satellite homes. G4 CEO Charles Hirschhorn will become head of the combined company.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable network, sank millions into launching G4 in 2002, in an effort to tap into the $11 billion video game market. While Comcast has made a name for itself in TV services, it also owns majority stakes in programming networks such as The Golf Channel, the Outdoor Life Network and E! Entertainment Television.

In recent months, Comcast has been looking to expand its slate of cable networks. The company in February submitted a $66 billion bid to acquire Walt Disney, but retracted the bid recently.

EchoStar Communications also will have a financial stake in the combined company, terms of which were not disclosed. EchoStar will distribute G4 on its Dish Network satellite TV service.

CNET News.com's Jim Hu contributed to this report.