Comcast's G4 Buys TechTV

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TechTV Inc. was finally sold to Comcast Corp. last week, to be merged with the cable operator's video game-centric G4.

Executives would not comment on the price, but it's been reported as about $300 million. Charles Hirschhorn, the current CEO of the two-year-old G4 network, will head the new network.

Operations will be based in Los Angeles, where G4 recently moved into a new studio, but no word yet on if production will still continue at TechTV's San Francisco studios.

"Now is when we begin planning. We'll meet with the TechTV folks and have them help us," said G4 COO Debra Green.

G4 will also have to determine how to handle overlap within the executive ranks and the effect on overall staffing, she said.

The deal will boost G4's homes passed to 44 million from about 15 million. Along with Comcast, EchoStar Communications Corp. and Insight Communications have equity stakes, Green said.

"I think this is a perfect marriage," Green said. Both networks cultivate the young male, 12-to-34 demographic. "G4 viewers are technology users. They're the iPod-carrying, camera phone-carrying, HDTV- and VOD-user generation," she said.

TechTV was already trying to tap into the big video game playing audience with programming of its own such as Extended Play.

TechTV began as Ziff-Davis TV (ZDTV) in 1998. Paul Allen's Vulcan Programming Inc. bought it in 2000.

Regulatory approvals are required, but Green said attorneys foresee no anti-trust implications.

G4 executives notified cable affiliates and advertisers of the deal last Thursday and "so far, the reaction is very positive," she said. But a substantive change in the character of a network could prompt affiliates to demand alterations in their compensation agreements.

Viewers will see no programming changes to either network until the deal closes, at least a 30-day process.

After the deal was announced, Charter Communications Holdings Co. LLC filed federal financial disclosures, stating Charter would waive claims against TechTV over issues such as launch payments. In return, Vulcan Programming Inc. will pay Charter $10 million.

Vulcan also agreed to buy $2 million worth of advertising across multiple networks carried by Charter during the next two years, settling any claims between the two.

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