An Example Of Marketing Re-Branding That Failed
Before Tech-TV, the computer channel was known as ZIFF-DAVIS TV. As ZDTV, the network had quite a cult following.
When writing the article about the LENOVO-IBM re-branding campaign, involving the former IBM PC product line, I began thinking about providing an example of a marketing re-branding campaign that FAILED, resulting in an unmitigated disaster that lost a great deal of money. I could come up with an example NONE BETTER than the buyout and implosion of the Tech-TV computer channel, which broadcast several shows that I took the time to watch; The Screen Savers, Big Thinkers, Call For Help, and Fresh Gear. These shows taught my wife about computers, and the light atmosphere helped difficult technical knowledge to be dispensed with a smile and a joke or two.
Tech-TV was originally called Ziff-Davis Television (ZDTV), with Ziff-Davis looking to expand their computer publishing empire into the multimedia of television. ZDTV began broadcasting on Monday, May 11, 1998 --- just two weeks after I had my satellite dish installed. So, I was a viewer from their very first day, to their very last day, a mere six-years later on Friday, May 28, 2004.
Tech-TV had quite a loyal following, especially the show THE SCREEN SAVERS, where Monday through Friday, one hour of tech tips and computer nerd news was broadcast to the education and enjoyment of all.
ZDTV became Tech-TV through an acquisition announcement on Thursday, August 21, 2000. Thus began their re-branding campaign, where ZDTV had become Tech-TV. Tech-TV was a product of Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, his venture capital holding company. Because of the viewers identification with the on-air hosts and personalities, shows like THE SCREEN SAVERS quickly became cult-hits, and those computer nerds IN-THE-KNOW all watched this channel, and its' shows. People like Leo LaPorte, Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, Martin Sargent, and others became household names.
Once the G4 video game channel announced a buy-out of Tech-TV, the marketing department began running ads that combined the logos of BOTH channels.
On Thursday, March 25, 2004, Comcast announced their takeover of Tech-TV, and when the buyout was completed on Monday, May 10, 2004, the channel became G4Tech-TV. Almost immediately, vast changes were seen on-air, and some veteran staff left, while new staff came aboard. One of the new hosts of THE SCREEN SAVERS was a man named ALEX ALBRECHT, who admitted that he was hired because of his entertaining antics at a producer's wedding reception. I knew within the first ten minutes of watching this guy, that my favorite satellite channel was soon to die a horrible death.
That horrible death would occur on Friday, July 16, 2004, when the last broadcast from San Francisco had taken place.
After a few months of ads featuring the logos of both companies, the G4 channel logo was brought out, front and center.
The final death throes of Tech-TV were felt on Tuesday, February 15, 2005; but I had stopped watching several months earlier, when I was compelled to write a letter to the CEO of G4 Media Inc. The date of that letter was October 13, 2004; when I could no longer bear to watch the insipid and nonsensical replacement hosts, new shows, and worse yet, there were many of the beloved staff and on-air personalities that had been terminated, laid-off, or went on to better employment opportunities.
Here is the text of that letter; which was sent to the CEO of G4 Media, Inc:
October 13, 2004
Mr. Charles Hirschom
Chief Executive Officer
G4 Media, Inc.
3250 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica, California 90405-3208
Re: G4 takeover of Tech-TV, destruction of The Screen Savers
I am writing to you today about your companies’ recent takeover of Tech-TV, and specifically, your companies’ complete destruction of The Screen Savers television show, which was well known to be the highest-rated program on the entire Tech-TV schedule. In fact, I even bought a satellite dish just for this one show alone, back in the days when Tech-TV was known as Ziff-Davis Television (ZDTV). In all, I was a regular and loyal daily viewer of this show for the past six years. In fact, I am not the only person who is upset about this, as evidenced by the fact that all negative comments about the G4 Los Angeles production of The Screen Savers have been removed from the message board associated with the program.
If you have noticed, in the above paragraph, I stated that I was a regular and loyal viewer of The Screen Savers. But, no more. I have completely removed your new channel from my remote, and I have no intention of watching this show ever again. This is also true of the other programming on the channel --- I have no intention of ever watching your G4TechTV channel ever again. Why? Because what once was an informative and thorough reportage of computer and gaming news for computer geeks by computer geeks, has now devolved into a literal mess that is simply no longer worth watching.
Your company has taken the public relations line that “certain on-air personalities were unable to make the move to Los Angeles from San Francisco.” Primary talent and on-air personalities such as Leo LaPorte and Patrick Norton were treated unprofessionally, and this is one of the reasons for so much discontent among previously loyal viewers. Instead of facing this public relations dilemma head-on, your companies’ method of dealing with this was to censor The Screen Savers message boards --- which further enraged already upset viewers --- and with good reason.
When the Los Angeles broadcasts were televised, previously loyal viewers were then subjected to this ridiculous buffoon named Alex Albrecht --- who was said to have been hired because of his clowning around at someone’s wedding. This is not the manner in which worthwhile on-air talent is procured. But, there is nothing about Mr. Albrecht that I would consider to be worthwhile. To begin, his on-air speaking voice is inconsistent, and until I could no longer stand it --- he reminded me of Jay Leno --- who himself has the bad habit of allowing his on-air speaking voice to wander all throughout the lower and high registers. This gets old very fast, and unless there is some inherent value in what is being presented, it is not worth it over the long haul. My six plus years as a loyal viewer are now a thing of the past, as Mr. Albrecht was simply the last straw, at least as far as I am concerned.
I do not know who told Mr. Albrecht that he was funny --- but whomever that was --- the management of your company should consider some disciplinary action --- as that bad decision has led to the destruction of one of only three television programs I even bother to go out of my way to watch at this point in time. Mr. Albrecht’s on-air antics are obnoxious, juvenile, and downright embarrassing to watch. Very little of his on-air nonsensical rantings have anything at all to do with computers or the show on which he now works. This, in toto, represents a massive insult to my intelligence --- and perhaps Mr. Albrecht should have been required to watch old episodes --- as The Screen Savers is not a comedy show --- such as Unscrewed with Martin Sergeant and Laura what’s-her-name.
Whomever told Alex Albrecht that he was funny should be immediately terminated for a complete lack of common sense.
While I previously thought that Kevin Rose was one of the luckiest young men to ever rise through the ranks of Tech-TV, I now feel nothing but sorry for him. To be in charge of what is now seen by many as a sinking ship --- Mr. Rose has sadly lowered himself to the level of Mr. Albrecht --- and the combination of the two of them is simply intolerable. This is why I describe myself as a former viewer. Mr. Albrecht and Mr. Rose have lowered the quality of the program to such a sad degree, that I simply cannot bear it any longer.
Finally, you know as well as I, that only a small percentage of the total viewing audience will ever bother to write a letter to the offending party. This is the reason why I have not only written to you, but also to your Chief Operations Officer and your Senior Vice President of Marketing, as can seen below. Realizing that you are more concerned with market-share or demographic hegemony, and not concerned with your actual viewership, I wanted to drop you a personal letter explaining why I have simply deleted G4Tech-TV from all of my television remotes. I have also erased all programming data from my TiVo DVR unit.
Thank you for allowing me to share my views with you, and to let you know that Mr. Albrecht is the major reason for my defection.
Buffalo, New York USA
carbon copies have been sent to the following people:
- Debra Green, Chief Operations Officer, G4 Media, Inc.
- Gaynor Strachan Chun, Senior Vice President of Marketing, G4 Media, Inc.
Here are the ratings differential between the pre-buyout Tech-TV and the post-buyout G4 Video Games Network. As the reader can plainly see, the buyout was a complete failure, representing a 95%+ LOSS of formerly loyal viewers.
This last graphic tells the whole story in a much more succinct manner than I could explain. Simply put, the G4 buyout of Tech-TV not only dismantled a successful television network, which was seeing its' viewership growing, until they came in with their moronic and brain-dead programming and on-air personalities, such as the aforementioned Alex Albrecht.
The comparision of the pre and post-buyout ratings tell the entire story, which is about the death of a resource that was actually TEACHING PEOPLE SOMETHING IMPORTANT.
The loss of viewership is approximately 95% --- perhaps that CEO should be the one looking for a new job, eh?
This was but one example of a marketing re-branding campaign that failed, as proven by the ratings listed above. Inept business management had destroyed one of the most successful news channels, especially given that it was a channel devoted to computers and new technology. I wanted to share this with my readers because it is a perfect example of how BIG BUSINESS is clueless as to what the viewers want.
The staff members, when they were let go, were required to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, in which they were FORBIDDEN to state any negative comments (even if true) about G4 Media. However, the fans more than made up for this, because at the time of the death of Tech-TV, the message boards were aflame with tens of thousands of negative posts about the G4 channel. THAT in itself, should tell us something ...
For more details on this egregious destruction of a once-viable company, please visit the links below ...
© 2006 Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
ZDTV Starts Broadcasting (May 11, 1998 3:15pm)
The Death of Tech-TV (November 29, 2004 9:15pm)
Wikipedia - Tech-TV
Alex Albrecht - The Screen Savers is Dead (November 11, 2004)
Sarah Lane - Tales From Olympic Boulevard (November 11, 2004)