TV Guide is slashing the circulation it guarantees advertisers by about two-thirds and relaunching itself as a large format magazine with far fewer TV listings and more emphasis on lifestyle and entertainment, the magazine announced Tuesday.
The radical changes to TV Guide 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 on the Internet.
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 early 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.
“We didn’t believe in its old form that the digest-size magazine was sustainable,” Battista said. “Any brand has to evolve in a dynamic marketplace where consumer tastes are changing rapidly.”
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 costs of producing the larger-format magazine would make it uneconomical 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.
As part of the changes, TV Guide’s said it expected to incur losses of up to $110 million over its 2005 and 2006 fiscal years, which exclude losses from its recently launched title Inside TV, a celebrity magazine for younger viewers which the company said is not performing as well as expected due to delays in building up distribution.
Loughlin said the magazine would 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. The magazine will also triple its lowest introductory price of 25 cents an issue for subscribers.
The company said it expects the relaunched TV Guide magazine to become profitable in about three years.
Gemstar-TV Guide International is about 40 percent owned by New York-based News Corp., the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch.