WSJ Says TechTV For Sale

Thanks to Cyrus for sending me this article from today's Wall St. Journal...

Former Executive Of Microsoft Seeks Buyer for TechTV By JOE FLINT Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen is trying to sell TechTV, his gadget-and-gizmo cable channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

Companies approached about TechTV include Viacom Inc., parent of cable channels MTV and Nickelodeon, and Sony Corp., which co-owns the Game Show Network with Liberty Media Corp. Spokespeople for Viacom and Sony declined to comment.

The channel, which Mr. Allen's investment arm Vulcan Ventures Inc. acquired from Ziff-Davis Inc. in 2000 for $320 million, is being valued at between $250 million and $300 million, people familiar with the situation said.

Even though TechTV is in almost 40 million homes, it has yet to turn a profit, though some analysts think that might happen this year. The channel, launched in 1998, is expected to take in about $36 million in ad revenue this year, according to consultants Kagan World Media.

This past May, TechTV said it was retaining investment bankers Greenbridge Partners LLC to look for strategic partners to invest in the channel. A spokeswoman for TechTV declined to comment on the possibility of the channel being sold outright. A spokesman for Vulcan also declined to comment.

Any suitor likely would want to change the channel's programming, which garners very small ratings. Most of its shows are about technological advances and the implications of those advances, though as of late the channel has tried to get racier. Earlier this year, it launched "Wired for Sex," a program about how technology is changing sex lives. It also has bought several Japanese animated series known as "anime."

Sony Pictures Entertainment is giving the channel a hard look. People close to the company say it would like to start a Sony lifestyle network and could use that channel to promote its own electronic products as well as entertainment fare.

Viacom, which has often said it is looking to acquire cable networks and earlier this year acquired the 50% of Comedy Central it didn't own from AOL Time Warner Inc., could try to convert TechTV into a science-fiction channel. Viacom has in the past indicated a desire to buy or create more niche channels, and science fiction is a niche the company thinks has strong potential. It has expressed interest in Vivendi Universal SA's Sci Fi Channel, but isn't now a contender in the auction for Vivendi's entertainment assets.

Hoo boy.