ZDTV renamed as tech channel plans campaign

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ZDTV, the 2-year-old computer and technology cable channel, is rebranding itself with a new name -- techtv -- and backing the shift with a marketing effort estimated at $20 million.

The 19 million-subscriber channel controlled by technology billionaire Paul Allen will shed its ZDTV moniker, which was derived from the Ziff-Davis computer magazine publishing empire.

"ZDTV is not a consumer brand," said Joe Gillespie, exec VP-chief operating officer of techtv. "It's a business brand."

In renaming the network, Mr. Gillespie said the goal was to create a channel that appeals to all demographics -- the heavy-tech-minded computer enthusiast as well as the casual computer user.

NOT `GEEK TV`

"We are a lifestyle channel," he said. "It's not `Geek TV.' We appeal to all people who are interested in technology. Renaming in this age is a difficult process. The more we thought about, we didn't want to overcomplicate it."

The new name was created out of a collaboration among ZDTV executives; Tonic 360, San Francisco, the network's ad agency; and Brandlink, New York, a name-branding consultant. Techtv and Tonic 360 are still mapping out plans for the marketing campaign to break in mid-September, but it will include online, print and TV advertising centered in 20 markets that techtv covers. The markets include New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Denver, Dallas and Boston.

The channel has been gaining advertisers recently. In the first quarter, the network had 60 national advertisers. That has grown to more than 100 on-air sponsors in the third quarter, according to the network. Advertisers include Cisco Systems, Dell Computer Corp., eBay, Ford Motor Co., Gateway, Microsoft Corp., Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Sony Electronics, Volkswagen of America, TiVo and United Parcel Service of America.

ADDING PROGRAMMING

To further push the brand, Mr. Gillespie said the network will significantly add to its 61/2 hours of original daily programming. Later this month, a new show called "AudioFile," a weekly half-hour TV show and Web site dedicated to the technology of music, will be launched. The network also recently launched a weekly half-hour show, "Cybercrime," techtv's version of "Cops."

While the network hasn't yet been rated by Nielsen Media Research, techtv said it expects to be in 20 million U.S. TV homes in the fall, and thus eligible for Nielsen coverage. About 55% to 60% of its TV home coverage comes from analog cable distribution, 40% to 45% from satellite distribution and almost 2 million homes from digital cable.

Additionally, Charter Communications, the large multiple system operator also owned by Mr. Allen, will carry the channel on 50% of all its systems -- passing some 3 million homes -- by yearend.

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