ZDTV, featuring programming focused on computers and the
Internet, launches today with limited cable distribution and no announced deals with any
direct-broadcast satellite providers.
ZDTV officials said last week they have closed carriage
deals with several smaller MSOs and systems: Cable TV of the Kennebunks; Clear Vision
Cable; Fibervision, a prospective overbuilder in Connecticut; Helicon Cable; Knology TV;
Pinetree Cablevision; and Rifkin & Associates Inc.
Those are in addition to ZDTV's previously announced
affiliation agreements with: Prime Cable of Las Vegas, with 319,000 residential homes;
Harron Communications Inc. in the Detroit area; Prestige Cable in Virginia; and TeleView
in Georgia. ZDTV, which is expected to cost $100 million to start up, has also struck an
alliance with the National Cable Television Co-op, which gives it a "hunting
license" to go after small MSOs the co-op represents.
A ZDTV spokesman said the San Francisco-based service is
not providing any subscriber numbers for its its launch. But the affiliates announced so
far don't appear to reach even 1 million households.
ZDTV is an affiliate of ZD Inc., the parent of magazine
publisher Ziff-Davis, which just went public and raised about $400 million. A ZDTV
spokesman said the network is abiding by ZD Inc.'s quiet period, even though at this
point it is only an affiliate of ZD Inc. and isn't owned by the company.
Harron will roll out ZDTV on expanded basic at its
65,000-subscriber system in Detroit that is undergoing a rebuild, said Linda Stuchell,
Harron's vice president of programming. She sees the network as an outlet to drum up
interest and support for Harron's coming services.
"We felt it [ZDTV] presents us with a marketing
opportunity," she said. "We plan to launch a cable-modem business this
ZDTV said it has signed an affiliation agreement with
Rifkin, but Suzanne Cyman, the MSO's vice president of programming and strategic
planning, could not name any specific Rifkin systems where it will launch the computer
network this week.
Cyman said she wanted to get a look at the programming and
-- like Stuchell -- is eyeing ZDTV for markets where Rifkin plans to roll out
ZDTV will be taking digital as well as analog carriage, the
network spokesman said. ZDTV is offering cable operators equity in the network in exchange
ZDTV, which has an elaborate launch party planned for San
Francisco on Wednesday, does have a bevy of charter as well as launch sponsors on board,
including Charles Schwab Corp., Computer Discount Warehouse, Corel Corp., Dell Computer
Corp., Gateway 2000 Inc., IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Micron, Microsoft Corp., Siebel Systems
Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc., Canon Inc., Earthlink Network Inc.,
NEC Corp., Packard Bell, Sprint Corp., Symantec Corp. and Web Street Securities Inc.
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