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TechTV launches live cable, online news

The on-air and online network is launching a live news program Monday on its cable TV channel as well as added content on its companion Web site.

    On-air and online network TechTV is launching a live news program Monday on its cable TV channel as well as added content on its companion Web site.

    Dubbed Tech Live, the format aims to bolster TechTV's coverage on breaking technology news developments with nine and a half hours of live daily programming from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. People can also view top stories on TechTV's Web site through its video-on-demand service and listen to live audio streams of the cable TV program.

    The launch comes as many online and offline media companies have been scaling back their Internet efforts as the Web-advertising market slows. Newspaper publishers including News Corp., The New York Times Co. and Knight Ridder have reduced staff or closed online divisions.

    Last month, business TV news network CNBC cut its staff by 4 percent and its CNBC.com Web site staff by 26 percent. In addition, TV networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are bringing their online projects in closer contact with their TV productions.

    "This economic downturn will right itself at some point," said T.S. Kelly, director of Internet media strategies at NetRatings. "If TechTV wants to develop a presence now and when things move around in the technology sector, they'll be one of the primary consumer resources, the same that CNN is for news and ESPN is for sports."

    Kelly said that TechTV is a brand that needs some development because it's not yet widely available; only consumers of digital cable or direct broadcast satellite have access to TechTV. In addition, TechTV's Web site, TechTV.com, had 517,000 unique visitors at home for the month of February, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. That compares with other Web sites that cover aspects of technology news, including CBS MarketWatch.com, which pulled in 1.7 million unique visitors in February.

    However, TechTV said its cable news network is distributed to more than 23 million households nationwide. The company continues to ink deals with cable systems, such as AT&T and Cox Communications, across the nation to broaden its reach.

    In July, TechTV inked a deal with Time Warner Cable, and it is pursuing distribution arrangements with individual Time Warner cable systems around the country.

    "Our goal is really to do swarm coverage," said Greg Drebin, TechTV's senior vice president for programming and production. "Meaning, when there's a major announcement in the world of technology, there may be several other places to get just that fact, but there's nowhere else to get a further analysis and detail analysis of what that announcement or development in technology means to the consumer."

    TechTV is owned by Vulcan Ventures, the investment company of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, which purchased it from Ziff-Davis in November 1999 for $320 million.

    The company is betting that it will become a top resource for consumers to access information about the world of technology by featuring breaking technology developments and how they affect consumers, the financial markets and the industry.

    Drebin said TechTV not only has revamped its studio, but in the last couple of months its staff has "increased pretty significantly" with the addition of Tech Live. It also continues to hire more employees despite laying off 13 people a couple of weeks ago, which he said accounted for less than 2 percent of the company's total staff. Drebin said the layoffs were part of TechTV's efforts to restructure the company and eliminate redundant positions.

    "Even with the downturn in the technology industry, the role of technology in people's lives has not changed or decreased," Drebin said. "It's still a huge part of people's lives and always will be."

    Though TechTV said it has no direct competitors and is betting that subject-specific networks are valuable to the consumer, NetRatings' Kelly said that TechTV has a long way to go if it wants to be like an ESPN for tech news.

    "The challenge for TechTV is just getting the eyeballs," Kelly said. "When there's a downturn, people look for opportunities, but the opportunities will always be there. It's just a matter of being smart; it's a matter of developing a killer application and then finding the right consumer to purchase it and utilize it."