Tuesday, July 26, 2005

How the mighty have fallen -- TV Guide retrenches

According to the Associated Press, TV Guide in the U.S. is effectively getting out of the listings business, cutting its guaranteed circulation by two-thirds and relaunching in a larger format with an emphasis on lifestyle and entertainment. The new format will launch October 17, with just 25% listings (currently it is 75%).

There is no indication what impact this will have on the Canadian edition of TV Guide, owned by Transcontinental Media; the Canadian edition went through a major makeover recently, increasing to a "super digest" format. The Canadian edition has about 392,000 circ and an estimated total revenue of about $21 million. Circulation and revenue have been declining steadily for the past decade.

The magazine in the U.S. 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 (such as distributing the magazine in hotel rooms).

On a conference call with investors and analysts, Gemstar Chief Financial Officer Brian Urban said the magazine's revenues have been declining over the past decade as other forms of TV listings proliferate and as the magazine's newsstand and advertising sales have declined.

The company will also be eliminating its 140 localized editions in favor of a national edition, with either an Eastern or Pacific time zone designation. And it will also lower its cover price to $1.99 from $2.49 as part of an effort to build up newsstand sales, which are more profitable than subscription sales.

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


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