Boosting Tech TV take

Cabler seeks cash influx or buyout

NEW YORK — Paul Allen’s Tech TV cable network is looking for investors to provide funds to ramp up its subscriber count beyond the current 40 million homes and beef up its original programming lineup.

Connecticut-based investment banker Greenbridge Partners has signed on to help Tech TV find a buyer to swallow the network whole or pick up an equity stake.

Joe Gillespie, chief operating officer and acting CEO of Tech TV, said the network has gained momentum from the 22 original series it produces and from its positioning on DirecTV, EchoStar and at least some cable systems owned by all of the major operators.

Kagan World Media statistics show that, unlike almost all other cable networks, Tech TV gets no revenues from cable operators. Gillespie acknowledged Tech TV’s earlier deals with cable ops were freebies. But the 5-year-old Tech TV now receives some dollars from cable systems, although Gillespie declined to give a figure, as the network is privately held.

Gillespie also denied that Tech TV’s programming expenses have fallen in each of the last two years, from $26 million in 2001 to $21.1 million projected for 2003, according to Kagan.

Tech TV has suffered through some rough patches. In November 2001, the web laid off 130 staff members, about 25% of its workforce, citing the downturn in the technology sector, which crippled Tech TV’s advertising revenues at the time.

But Gillespie said Tech TV pumped up its ad revenues by 35% last year when it offered companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, Circuit City and Best Buy the chance to customize half-hour series, giving new meaning to the term “product placement.”

Gillespie cited Tech TV’s position as “the only channel in the cable marketplace dedicated to technology.” But he said he’s also aware that more technology-related shows are turning up on cable all the time, from individual shows like “Junkyard Mega-Wars” on TLC to a whole network focusing on videogame news and information: the Comcast-owned G4.

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