NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Either at work or home, most people are turning to computers to help them simplify their lives. Technology publisher Ziff-Davis Inc. hopes this trend will help it make a go of its new 24-hour cable channel devoted to technology.
Ziff 's ZDTV, a cable channel and Web site delivering programming about computers and the Internet, began broadcasting this week.
The channel airs six-hour blocks of original programming daily, focusing on topics such as how to use and buy computers and using computers and the Internet to manage, save and make money. Rather than repeating the blocks in the same order, ZDTV mixes up the programming to target viewers on each coast.
The driving force behind the channel is Larry Wangberg, ZDTV's president and chief executive officer. Wangberg has worked in the cable television industry for more than 20 years, most recently serving as chairman and chief executive of StarSight Telecast Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based company that manufactures and markets an on-screen television guide.
Wangberg is excited about the challenge of doing something new in an industry he's been involved in for decades.
"When I first read about (Ziff) wanting to launch a network about computing and the Internet, I said to myself , 'This is really going to be important and is really going to be big.'
"It's important because as we see television and computers coming together in many different ways, it will represent huge opportunities for the cable industry," he said.
One of the ways Wangberg believes ZDTV can help drive the industry is by showcasing emerging technologies, such as cable modems, and detailing the benefits they provide to those who rely on the Internet.
Wangberg wouldn't reveal how much Ziff has spent on the launch of ZDTV, but industry analysts put the sum at about $100 million.
Despite the steep cost to launch the channel, Wangberg is convinced the investment will pay off.
"We've done research that shows about 65 percent of adults in cable or satellite households have an interest in a channel about computing and the Internet. What's almost more interesting is about half the people not yet in computing have an interest in the channel. The opportunity to provide unique and valuable programming is broad," he said.
While the programming has an obvious focus, Wangberg said, ZDTV's planners went to great lengths to ensure that it's entertaining and fun as well.
ZDTV's obstacles include crowded cable systems and a growing number of cable channels, both general-purpose and interest-oriented. However, analysts believe technology and TV can be a successful equation.
"A couple of things point to their success: the rise of PC penetration into the home and an increase in the general knowledge and awareness of the Internet," said Patti Reali, an analyst with market research firm Dataquest.
Reali said many of ZDTV's early obstacles, such as getting cable carriage, should be resolved relatively quickly. What will work in its favor, she believes, is the fact that an increasing number of people want to learn about technology.
"It has to be executed in a manner which is informative and entertaining. They're cutting across a wide swath in terms of who they're targeting. No one has dedicated the amount of resources to technology that ZDTV has," she said.
ZDTV recently signed an affiliation agreement with cable company Tele-Communications Inc. that allows the upstart channel to work with local and regional TCI affiliates to negotiate carriage agreements. Wangberg estimates the channel will reach 6 million homes before the end of the year.
Wangberg said there are no short-term plans to broadcast outside the United States, although that's clearly a potential market, given the high rates of computer proliferation in other areas of North America as well as in Asia and Europe.
Ultimately, Wangberg hopes the letters ZDTV will some day be as familiar as ESPN or CNN.
"We see ZDTV as being a channel for those people who have an interest in computing and the Internet just like ESPN is for sports and CNN is for general news enthusiasts," he said.
-- by staff writer Cyrus Afzali