After toughing it out as an "independent" for five years, computer billionaire Paul Allen's Techtv is looking for a strategic partner that can help jump-start its distribution and marketing growth.
Techtv, owned by Allen's Vulcan Inc., hired Greenwich, Conn.-based Greenbridge Partners LLC to seek out partners to finance and fire up the network's future plans.
Techtv is open to a range of scenarios, said CEO Joe Gillespie. A strategic investor could be invited to take an equity stake in the channel, or even purchase it outright, he said.
The network is already fielding inquiries from potential investors.
"Several parties have already expressed an interest," Gillespie said.
In addition to gaining more traction in distribution, Techtv also hopes to benefit from any cross-promotion a strategic alliance might bring.
Gillespie considers Techtv an independent, despite the fact that Allen is a majority owner of Charter Communications Inc.
"Techtv is owned by Vulcan, and Charter is a separate, publicly held company," Gillespie said. "Charter has no equity interest in Techtv."
Now in 40 million homes, Techtv has evolved in terms of its strategy and programming. It launched as a network dealing in large part with computers and the digital world.
Now, to broaden its audience, Techtv is "taking a lifestyle view of technology," according to Gillespie, by "telling stories through the prism of technology."
That entails informational programming, documentaries and edgy late-night fare targeted to young male viewers. In primetime, Techtv has debuted series such as Wired for Sex.
Techtv's late-night block now includes an anime show, a series on video games and The Martin Sargent Show,
an offbeat talk show featuring a young host.
Last year, Techtv laid off 70 people when it reorganized and pulled back its Tech Live
programming, which at one point consisted of nine hours a day of news and informational content.
But Gillespie said Techtv has enjoyed solid ad sales — last year was a banner year, with a 35% increase in that revenue in 2002 from 2001. Techtv has a young male demographic that is treasured by advertisers, and offers sponsors an alternative to sports programming to reach that target audience, Gillespie said.