U.S. magazine TV Guide to drop local editions in makeover

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The cover of a past issue of TV Guide. Source: Wikipedia

After years of declining subscription rates, the owners of U.S. magazine TV Guide ordered a complete overhaul of the 52-year-old publication. Gemstar-TV Guide International, the corporate parent of the magazine says the current format of the magazine has caused it to become unprofitable.

The changes will be effective with the October 15 issue. Lack of profitability has been a point of contention between Gemstar management and its largest shareholder, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Included in the new design is a shift away from detailed listings to more of a People or Entertainment Weekly celebrity-focused format. Included in that change will be the elimination of the 140 localized editions of TV Guide in favor of one national publication with only "Eastern" and "Pacific" times listed for program listings.

The magazine's owners noted that with the advent of digital cable and satellite TV, more viewers rely upon electronic program guides provided free by the television service provider than printed listings.

TV Guide officials say the current magazine is made up of 25 percent news content printed on glossy paper and 75 percent TV listings printed on newsprint and in black-and-white. The new version of the magazine will be completely four-color and on glossy paper. Additionally, the news-to-listing ratio will flip with 75 percent of future content being feature articles on celebrities and television programs.

A second change will be the magazine's size as it moves from a digest-sized publication to a full-sized glossy. The company expects the larger edition will be more profitable against competition such as People and US Weekly. But that profitability may be at the expense of national reach.

Although the magazine is getting physically larger, according to reports, the readership is expected to shrink. Gemstar expects many of is subscribers not to renew with the new format. Currently the TV Guide guarantees 9 million subscribers to its national advertisers. According to reports, it is only guaranteeing 3.2 million subscribers to its revamped publication once it hits newsstands.