Ziff-Davis to bow computer cablenet

NEW YORK — Ziff-Davis Inc., the computer magazine publisher and Internet programming producer, will launch a computer channel for cable television, ZDTV, in the first quarter of 1998.

Softbank-owned Ziff-Davis will invest upwards of $100 million in the channel and a companion Web site, to launch in late 1997, but has not yet secured any deals with cable or satellite operators.

300 employees

The company plans to hire 300 employees and expand its existing San Francisco production facility, where it currently produces “The Site” with NBC, an hourlong computer show that runs weekly on MSNBC.

Announcing the venture at a press conference, Ziff-Davis execs acknowledged the difficulties ZDTV will likely face in attempting to gain carriage on increasingly crowded cable dials. Richard Fisher, VP and G.M. of ZDTV, said the channel will offer operators financial incentives for carriage that are “competitive with what’s out there,” which is $2 to $6 per subscriber from such upstart channels as Animal Planet and TV Land.

The execs are hopeful that ZDTV’s unique programming and potentially sizable niche audience will make it an attractive candidate to operators, many of whom will soon be adding channel capacity.

ZDTV will carry mostly informational programming about computers and the Internet. About 60% of the programming will be original and much of it live. The slate will likely include news, games, business, consumer information and how-to shows.

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