TV Guide revamps size, content

The new version will limit listings to focus on entertainment stories.

Associated Press
Published July 27, 2005

NEW YORK - TV Guide, an iconic magazine for two generations of Americans, is radically remaking itself into a title with a much smaller circulation, a larger, full-color format, fewer listings and more stories about TV shows and stars.

The radical changes to TV Guide, announced Tuesday, come as it struggles to remain relevant in an age where many TV viewers get their listings from on-screen guides provided by their cable companies or online.

TV Guide also said it would cut jobs as part of the revamp, but it declined say how many.

The new TV Guide, which will launch with the Oct. 17 issue, will contain just 25 percent listings and 75 percent stories, versus the 75 percent listings and 25 percent stories it has now, the company said Tuesday.

Rich Battista, the CEO of TV Guide's parent company, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., said in an interview that the company's research found that readers would be more interested in reading a magazine with fewer listings and more stories about TV shows and their stars.

Battista acknowledged that the digest-size magazine was losing money, but he declined to say how much. The company, which also licenses technology for interactive programming guides, does not break out profit figures for TV Guide magazine.

The magazine currently guarantees 9-million readers to advertisers, according to its most recent filing with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But the new guarantee will be set at just 3.2-million, which partly reflects the elimination of 3-million in "sponsored" sales or circulation paid for by third parties.

John Loughlin, the president of TV Guide's publishing group, said the higher per-unit costs of producing the larger-format, full-color magazine would make it too expensive to distribute in some of the ways it had in the past, including through subsidized distribution in hotels, which count as "sponsored" sales.

The company will also streamline how it produces the magazine, eliminating its 140 localized editions in favor of a national edition, with either an Eastern or Pacific time zone designation.

The company also said its new Inside TV, a celebrity magazine for younger viewers, is not performing as well as expected due to delays in building up distribution.

Gary McDaniel, an equity analyst with Standard & Poor's, said the company would be better off trimming costs instead of making additional investments in printed TV listings in an age where so many people find TV programs through digital guides.

"There are simply far too many channels and listings for a printed guide," said McDaniel.

By focusing more on celebrity news and entertainment, the magazine is also entering an extremely competitive arena already dominated by powerful magazines like US Weekly, People and Star, McDaniel noted.

Loughlin said the magazine would lower its cover price to $1.99 from $2.49 as part of an effort to build up newsstand sales.

About 40 percent of Gemstar-TV Guide International is owned by New York-based News Corp., the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch.