'Tech Live' Treks On Minus Three Bureaus


TechTv shuttered its New York, Seattle and Silicon Valley bureaus last week, laying off 19 people. The bureaus provided reports for Tech Live, the channel's half-hour nightly magazine show.

A few hours after TechTv announced the cuts on Nov. 5, parent Vulcan Ventures Inc. pulled the plug on Action Sports Cable Network, the regional sports network serving the Portland, Ore., DMA. The channel, which featured games of the National Basketball Association's Portland Trailblazers — also owned by Vulcan chief Paul Allen — closed after failing to clear AT&T Broadband systems in the area over a subscriber cost dispute.

TechTv executive vice president and chief operating officer Joe Gillespie called the situations coincidental, not a prelude to any major downsizing of Allen's cable channel investments.

"Our closings are related specifically to Tech Live's evolution as a program," Gillespie said. The Action Sports situation "is not germane to us at all."

It's the second time in six months that TechTv has trimmed staff and resources tied to Tech Live. Last fall, the show, which premiered in April 2001 as a nine-hour news and information block, was separated into three daily 60- and 90-minute segments. A large chunk of the show's production team received their walking papers this past spring, when the current half-hour format was instituted.

Then, the show, originating from the net's San Francisco headquarters, switched from news reporting, product demonstrations and live conference and convention coverage to features.

"We were reporting and taking a pedestrian approach, not making compelling television," Gillespie noted. "People are far less interested in tech news than understanding the impact and benefits the tech has on them. The results the last six months demonstrate that."

CIRC, ad gains

Indeed, TechTv's circulation has increased to 35 million households from just over 30 million when the format was adopted. Ad sales also have jumped, running about 35 percent ahead of the 2001 pace. Gillespie is happy with the show's look and format, and ratings have "improved nicely" in recent months.

So why close the bureaus down?

"When we made the format change — with some budget changes — I had the unusual luxury of keeping people on and see how things could work out," said Tech Live
executive producer Carolyn Kane. "We saw that all the bureaus weren't needed for a half-hour show."

A news bureau in Washington, D.C., will remain, with occasional contributions from freelancers. "You won't notice any difference in the show," or on topics involving the affected areas, Kane said.

Michaela Pereira and Erica Hill continue as Tech Live's anchors, with Becky Worley substitute anchor and correspondent.