TechTV, still trying to broaden its audience, is expanding its original primetime programming, debuting two new series and more specials.
The network last week added the new shows to its evening lineup and announced it had forged a strategic programming alliance with CNN Headline News. Those initiatives follow TechTV's introduction of a late-night block six months ago, a move aimed at attracting youthful viewers.
"While help and information [programming] remains really important to us, speaking to that next generation of tech users has been a priority," said Greg Brannan, TechTV's executive vice president of programming and production. "Primetime is really the area where we can swing for the fence, if you will."
The network's goal, in part, is to differentiate its primetime schedule.
"We know we can't afford to be confused with doco [documentary] channels that sometimes dip their toes in our water," Brannan said. "We want to look different."
TechTV, now owned by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, is continuing to tweak its programming even as the network's future ownership is in flux. This spring the network retained an investment banking firm, Greenbridge Partners LLC, to look for investors for the channel.
Since then, companies such as Comcast Corp., Sony Corp. and Viacom Inc. have been approached about the network. Even former vice president Al Gore has reportedly looked at it, according to sources. Officials with the network, which is in 42.5 million homes, aren't commenting.
On the programming side, TechTV just debuted Invent This!, a series about new inventors and the stories behind their creations, on Tuesdays.
"These are just human-interest stories," Brannan said. "They're really just nice stories of people acting on their dreams."
On Wednesdays, TechTV has bowed Conspiracies, a 13-part series that the network acquired from the British Broadcasting Corp.
That show is a good fit for TechTV because "the Internet has really mainstreamed conspiracy theory," according to Brannan. "The whole Big-Brother aspects of it are so driven by tech that we're thinking our audience is going to find this lean-forward television."
The third leg of TechTV's primetime additions are specials, 30 or so in the next year.
And in a marketing coup that will help promote the TechTV brand, the network is now doing a live technology-news segment weeknights at 6:45 p.m. for CNN Headline News. Those break-ins will feature the Techtv brand.
Media outlets as varied as ABC World News Tonight, Live With Regis and Kelly
and The View
have been asking TechTV for network talent to talk about tech-related issues.
"People are really recognizing us as the experts," said Gaynor Strachan Chun, TechTV's senior vice president of marketing and communications.
The network's new late-night block has resulted in a 40% increase in the ratings for its time period from June through August, according to Brannan.
Existing original programming in primetime had made some inroads with viewers, although one of the highest-rated shows, Wired for Sex, will not be renewed. "We think 13 parts on sex and technology is probably as far as that thread goes," Brannan said.