TechTV goes Hollywood

With first Nielsens due soon, downsized net sheds tech news for techy movies, series
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In its latest incarnation, TechTV will look less like Headline News and more like TNT. Aiming to update, the ailing tech channel will ditch most daily-news coverage, replacing it with a slate of movies and dramas. Waning interest in tech news and the dotcom bust has cost TechTV viewers and advertisers.

Senior VP of Programming Greg Drebin says the goal is to broaden appeal: "We want to be more than help and how-to shows and news. There's a whole world of programming and technology content that we can present in a more entertaining form."

Flagship news show Tech Live, once nine hours daily, then 3.5 hours, is being slashed to 30 minutes. Fifty staffers were axed, mostly in production and programming. Since 2001, TechTV has cut about 180 jobs.

TechTV will look for acquisitions with a common high-tech or futuristic thread, Drebin said. Its first batch of movies, slated for Fridays and weekends, includes Coma, DemonSeed
and Forbidden Planet. Acquired series include 1960s British classic Thunderbirds
and futuristic Max Headroom.

Sounds like programming that could be on the Sci Fi channel. But one major difference, Drebin says, is that factual information will accompany movies and some fictional series. Big Screen Screen Savers,
a programming franchise similar to TBS's Dinner and a Movie, will be wrapped around entertainment to relay relevant info.

Most breaking news is out, but informational programming is not. TechTV favors newsmagazine-style shows like Big Thinkers
and The Tech Of
and technology-inspired entertainment like Eye Drops, with animated shorts. "It's technology, not tech," Drebin said. "Tech implies computers and Internet; technology implies anything that's new."

Any changes should help improve Nielsen ratings. April will be TechTV's first Nielsen-rated month, and insiders project a 0.1 prime time average, putting TechTV in company with thinly distributed Great American Country and MuchMusic USA.

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