Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Textbook Example of How to Kill a Business

Once there was a channel called TechTV, devoted to technology, computing and gaming. It was successful, fun, informative, hit its audience perfectly, and had 44 million subscribers.

Another channel, called G4, launched. It was devoted entirely to gaming -- a considerably narrower niche -- and it was shitty and they couldn't get it onto cable systems. It had less than 15 million subscribers.

So G4 bought TechTV... and, what...?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Overnight, they replaced almost all of TechTV's good, successful programming with its own shitty, failed programming. Good plan, right?

They made it almost entirely about games. They took TechTV's most popular show, called The Screen Savers, and fired almost all the hosts and made it "young and with-it and proactive and edgy" by renaming it Attack of the Show -- can't you just feel the proactivity? -- and making it shitty.

The new channel, renamed G4, G4TV, or G4TechTV, depending on what day it was, received the lowest rating a channel can get while still consuming electricity.

Meanwhile, the hosts from TechTV went out and founded podcasts with the same content they used to do on TechTV... and they became among the most popular podcasts available. They arguably helped drive the podcast revolution.

The host of two TechTV shows, Leo Laporte (whom I've gushed about here before), is part of several very popular podcasts, and he seems to add more each week.

Leo's flagship podcast, This Week in Tech, stars a rotating cast of former The Screen Savers hosts, along with guests like Steve Wozniak. The audio version, according to TV Week, is downloaded by more than 250,000 listeners each week through iTunes alone. And even though it's free, its audience (myself included) donates more than $10,000 a month to cover bandwidth and equipment.

All the while, Leo continues to do radio and TV, including doing a very popular former TechTV show, Call For Help, in Canada for Canadian and Australian audiences.

Meanwhile, back at G4, flopsweat was everywhere. They bought the rights to run Fox's cancelled show Fastlane. (Not a lot of fans or episodes, but I'm no expert.) Meanwhile, they seemingly got more angry emails from former TechTV viewers than they had current viewers.

So they finally did something smart: they backpedaled. They put the Canadian Call for Help, with Leo, back on G4.

But at 6 in the morning.

Idiots, right?

Well, despite that, it became one of their most popular shows.

So of course they did something stupid: They put it into repeats after two weeks, despite the fact that they had, like, a year's worth of unaired shows. Then they moved it to later in the day. Then they moved it back to 6. More repeats. Then they double-pumped repeats.

Meanwhile, G4 was firing its founder, saying his focus on gaming was too narrow (well, you don't say!)... and they decided the answer was to make G4 into a Cartoon Network knockoff part of the time. And they tried to make it a Spike knockoff another part of the time, spending a fortune to buy reruns of The Man Show. It's doing great for them...except that they spent a fortune.

Anyway, back to Call for Help, being moved and repeated. The ratings fell.

So without telling anyone, they have quietly removed, like, half their original programming from the schedule as of the end of the year, including Call For Help. They're going to replace them with Attack of the Show and Fastlane reruns and Star Trek: TNG (more originality) while they figure out how to drive even more of the audience away.

Don't worry, they'll come up with something.

(By the way, on a side note: Because TechTV was on all day, doing these amazing shows and features and tech reviews, they had built up an awesome website of show notes. Along with cnet.com, I always went to techtv.com to research any cell phone or TV or computer purchase, or just to figure out how to do something better.

(The day G4 bought TechTV, they just shut down the site. Gone. So I wrote an email, of the WTF variety, and got no reply. Several more. I guess they got more and more of them, because eventually they put up a "Looking for TechTV Stuff?" link. Assholes!

(Anyway, to this day, if you go to www.g4tv.com and search for something, you'll get the G4 results, then have to hit "more" to get the old TechTV results. ASSHOLES!)

2 comments:

Sodaen said...

WOW! That was an amazing critique of G4TechTV, I loved it. I knew it was a bad idea from the beginning. Thanks for writing this. What shocks me the most is people still like that horse-crap.

Michael Markowitz said...

Thanks, sodaen. Of course, I'm conflicted since AOTS has actually become a halfway-decent show. It's no Screen Savers, but I have an unrepentant crush on Olivia Munn, so my judgment is clouded.