The Screen Savers, and our sister show, Call for Help, had been created to take up as little space and use as few resources as possible, so that, if we were lucky, the powers that be would forget we were even there and we could soldier on doing our own thing until “something happened.” And for a while this worked exactly as planned.
Unfortunately, no matter how much money the network threw at shows like Paul Allen’s pet music show, AudioFile, and the “round the clock” technology news program Tech Live, nobody watched, and by 2001, the network was getting desperate. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures was backing the organization, and there was a sense that he expected results – yesterday. That AudioFile bombed so spectacularly (in spite of spending more money in a few months than most shows spent in a year), and was based off his idea, didn’t help maters. So after a year or so of trying things and failing, and continually watching the two little shows produced out of the back hallway kick their asses, the powers that be did the only thing they could have reasonably been expected to do: They took over.
I can only assume they felt as if their jobs were on the line, and taking charge of the one show that had any legs was their way of securing their positions. It’s entirely possible I’m projecting my own anxieties here, and that their intentions were pure and these folks genuinely wanted the network to succeed and thought that by throwing their resources behind the one show that was actually doing well, they could make it do even better and break through into a whole new market, securing money hats and good, long futures in television for all of us. It’s possible. But I know these people. When you talk to most of them, “altruist” isn’t the first word that pops into your head. And having lived through the aftermath of their decision to “become involved” the only conclusion I can reach is that they were misguided and incompetent.