TechTV was a popular UHF television network, based in exile in Back-of-the-woods, Nunavut. It was devoted to computers, both versions of the Interweb, hardcore techno music, and Taiwanese puppet animation (or "hantai"). It was broadcast in the United States from 1998 to 2004 before merging with competitor G4, but retained holdout operations in Canada until 2009.
TechTV was founded on May 11, 1998 as ZDTV (Zenon-Denon TV) as a joint venture of Zenon (a division of Disney-Exxon-Mobil Omnimedia, LLC) and Denon (the budget North Korean automaker).
ZDTV's first offices were located in the back of a Bay Area Best Buy, where they served double-duty as the store's Geek Squad. At launch, the network was carried by a number of small cable and satellite companies (as well as being available anywhere in the town of Nowhere, Kansas on UHF channel 42), which included:
- Bob's Cable
- Kabul Kabolvision
- Joe Comcast (not to be confused with Comcast)
- Burger King Cable
- AARPSAT (the satellite division of AARP)
- Corelle Satellite
- Cantenna Wireless Cable
- YMCA Cablevision
- ROTC-Budhaven-Newyear-PizzaHut Media
This amounted to ZDTV being available in 126 1/2 homes — which though somewhat low was still better than several other networks, notably a Los Angeles school AV Club project called G4 (which was only available within line-of-sight of the school).
From ZDTV to TechTV
Despite the fact that almost no large cable or satellite company was carrying the network, it got off to an amazingly good start. Of the 126 1/2 homes it was available in, all but 3 1/2 of them watched the network regularly. This success led Zenon and Denon, the network's owners, to pursue major cable and satellite providers. Between 1998 and 1999, they reached deals with every cable and satellite company known to man — except in Utah, where the state legislature was concerned that the network would promote ultraviolent Barney video games. Elsewhere, though, ZDTV's programming was widely viewed as the best television in history, with critics calling The Money Machine "the best thing since sliced bread," Digital Avenue "quality programming for the whole family," and Page View "Best. Show. Ever." However, the viewers had different opinions — most of them favored the show The Screen Savers with Leo Laporte and Kate Botello because of "its combination of charming wit and Linux kernel compilation."
In the summer of 1999, Zenon and Denon sold ZDTV on eBay for $13.54 to the Seattle Seahawks, who thought that Leo Laporte would make a great offensive coordinator. However, this did not turn out so well; in the 1999 NFL preseason, the Seahawks finished 0-4, which the sports media attributed to "switching to the open source offense," "Jim Louderback's lousy play at QB," and "Leo telling everybody 'It's not your fault.'" Because of this, Laporte was canned as offensive coordinator and returned his primary focus to the TV network. In the aftermath of their plan's failure, the Seattle Seahawks transferred ownership of ZDTV to Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Inc., their non-football-related division. Due to a lawsuit brought by Robert Mugabe (owner of Zimbabwe Dictator Television), ZDTV changed its name to TechTV in the year 2000.
The TechTV era
The name change coincided with a major shift in the network's format. This marked the end of such ZDTV classics as Digital Avenue, Page View, and The Money Machine and a shift to a new live programming-centered format — XBAM. XBAM was part C-SPAN, part-eBay, and part dot-com craziness. The cornerstone of XBAM was a 12-hour live news show which discussed the latest dot-com bust, who NOT to invest in, and locations of the best open wi-fi access points, among other things. However, XBAM was a total bust which almost killed the network. Even the addition of the Leet Hacking with Kevin Rose segment did not help XBAM's ratings. It was eventually cut down to a 1.337-hour show including only the Leet Hacking with Kevin Rose segment from the original 12-hour XBAM.
This time period also saw a number of people joining and leaving TechTV. Jim Louderback left in 2000 to pursue a football career full-time (he is currently the third-string quarterback on the Chicago Bears). Kate Botello followed in 2002 when she left TechTV to pursue a swimming career — eventually, she became the Hurricane Katrina we all know today. Among the people who joined TechTV around this time period include Chris "Lockergnome" Pirillo (ex-host of Late Night with Chris Pirillo), Kevin Rose (who hosted the above Leet Hacking segment), and Dan Huard (former NFL backup QB). Hardcore techno music and Taiwanese puppet animation were also added to the network around this time. This also included a new show called Battle for the Mountain.
In 2004, the small, fledgling G4 network (led by Charles Hirschhorn and Johnny Unitas) wanted to increase their market exposure so that they would become eligible for the "Worst Network on TV" award. Since no sane cable or satellite provider would add G4 to their lineup even if G4 paid to be added, they had to invade an existing network. TechTV was the closest network to G4 content-wise (although TechTV had the distinction of actually being good — which G4 wasn't), and because of this, G4 decided to launch an all-out invasion of TechTV beginning in March 2004.
G4 began subverting both TechTV and their parent Vulcan Nerve Pinch as part of a grand plan to take control of the network. First, they manipulated Vulcan to try to force Leo Laporte (who was the heart and soul of TechTV) out, and then they planted people at TechTV in order to stage a coup. They also dropped large numbers of leaflets on the TechTV headquarters, informing employees that "All your base are belong to us." This plan worked perfectly, and G4 quickly assumed control of key TechTV infrastructure. Call for Help fell first, followed by The Screen Savers, and then Fresh Gear and XBAM three days later. The TechTV flag was lowered for the last time on May 27, and the new People's Democratic Television Network of G4techTV flag was raised in its place.
G4 Occupation and TechTV forces in exile
With G4 firmly in control, occupation leaders began imposing G4 law on TechTV. First of all, they cancelled all the shows which were not sufficiently XTREME enough for G4 (which meant all the good stuff except for The Screen Savers — and maybe X-Play). The second thing that was done was to remove Leo Laporte entirely from G4techTV operations, since the Basic Law of G4 states that "No person over the age of 30 is allowed to appear on G4 — they're not XTREME enough!" This backfired, as Laporte, among with many TechTV loyalists, gathered some troops and found exile in Nunavut, where they formed the Free Forces of G4techTV Canada (the "G4" is silent). Here, the legitimate governing structure of TechTV continued to function while troops regrouped in hopes of regaining control in the U.S. They also began producing TechTV shows on a limited basis in exile — most notably Call for Help.
Meanwhile, some TechTV forces remained in occupied G4techTV areas, fighting the fight. Most notably were the hosts of The Screen Savers, Kevin Rose and Patrick Norton. However, beginning in September 2004 G4 military governors ordered all TechTV forces to vacate TechTV's long-time headquarters (at Best Buy) and move to the G4 headquarters in the AV classroom of a Los Angeles high school. Some people accepted this and hoped to gain control in LA, but others left. Within a few months of the LA move, everyone's worst fears were realized — G4 took full control of every aspect of the network, dropping the "techTV" from their name, and The Screen Savers was converted into a crappy G4 show. TechTV forces in exile lamented this, and pushed for G4 to admit this was a takeover by eliminating the TechTV from their name and changing the name of The Screen Savers to Attack of the Show — which they did. As a result, Call for Help was playing an increased role in its existence in exile.
TechTV Offensive, the Battle for Call for Help, and the Attack of the Attack of the Show
After the complete demolition of all things tech on G4, the former TechTV hosts decided to form an alliance and launch a massive offensive to bring back TechTV. This was coordinated from three fronts — San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the TechTV exile HQ in Nunavut. The first act of the TechTV offensive was the establishment of the TWiT Army — which worked to preserve The Screen Savers it its original form and push the battle onto the web. This expanded into an explosion of TechTV-related activity that became an Internet-wide epidemic. This started with the Battle for Call for Help, in which TechTV forces successfully captured a small portion of the U.S. G4 network and began broadcasting operations as of August 29, 2005. A few weeks later, Charles Hirschhorn was overthrown in a bloody coup (known as the Attack of the Attack of the Show) that left a group of hard-line G4 clerics, led by Hurricane Hugo, in control.
It was originally reported that TechTV operatives had assumed control of G4, but these reports were erroneous. G4 U.S. shelved Call for Help indefinitely on January 3, 2006, after moving it to the graveyard slot at 9am ET weekdays and causing its ratings to drop dramatically, and all TechTV forces had been successfully driven out of American G4 territory — with the exception of Adam Sessler, who was later fired in 2012. However, TechTV exile operations in Nunavut and the island of Podcast remained fully operational until 2009; also, in order to commit more covert ops, Call for Help was renamed The Lab with Leo Laporte and moved their HQ to Vancouver, BC.
Cops 2 Point OH Baby and Cheaters
Like many of these alpha-male (or trying to) TV stations, G4 has added Cops (the TV show, you don't need to hide that crackpipe) to their rotation. However, it is entitled Cops 2 point OH harder! This is a stripped version of cops that displays an annoying ticker with an active chat room with Emos, Wiggers and people that are not liked in grade school, that is on display from time to time, the ticker shows useless information otherwise. However, Cops 2 point OH Shit has not yet taken over other stations, you can find Cops on CourtTV, SpikeTV, LifeTime, Pokemon Channel and a few others without that stupid ticker on there with the info no one cares about, with a chat room screen.
G4 also had added Cheaters to the lineup, not to get confused with Cheat! The only good thing about this compared to Cops 2 Point OH Jesus, is that the very idea that Cheaters does not contain an annoying ticker as opposed to Cops 2 point OH Hell No!! But, like Cops, you can very well find Cheaters on other stations like LifeTime, Al-Jazzera and many, many more.