Magazine article Marketing

Charting Channels in the Digital Age

Magazine article Marketing

Charting Channels in the Digital Age

Article excerpt

Whatever you think about the content and quality of TV listings magazines, you have to admire their staying power. Radio Times,the grand-daddy, was 75 years old last year. TV Times has been around since 1968.

Both titles survived the deregulation of the listings market in 1991 and subsequent competition from newcomers such as IPC's What's on TV and Bauer's TV Quick, as well as from newspaper supplements. And to prove the sector still had plenty of life in it, the start-up titles rapidly climbed to the top of the circulation tables. They continue to deliver huge numbers for advertisers.

TOP 5 BY SALES

Title                 Owner              Circulation

1. What's on TV       IPC                 1,765,369
2. Radio Times        BBC                 1,400,331
3. TV Times           IPC                   850,282
4. TV Quick           Bauer                 740,800
5. Inside Soap        Attic Futura          231,673

Source: ABC July 1-Dec 31 1998

But now the sector faces another threat.With digitalTV, the magazines can no longer provide comprehensive listings without becoming doorstep-sized slabs. There is a danger that viewers who want the full picture will turn to the internet or electronic programme guides (EPGs).

Lori Miles, editor of TV Quick, admits that: "There are already too many TV channels to cover. We have to tailor listings information for our readership."

For TV Quick, that means women with families. "We cover the big five channels, obviously, plus those which we feel will appeal to our audience the movie channels, for instance. We have an editorial ban on sport,particularly football.

TOP 5 BY AD REVENUE

Title                    Ad revenue(*)

1. Radio Times          [pounds]9.708m
2. TV Times             [pounds]4.119m
3. What's on TV         [pounds]3.924m
4. TV Quick             [pounds]1.561m
5. Heat(**)             [pounds]0.580m

Source: MMS

* Includes display, advertorial, supplements, review ads. Excludes
all inserts. November 98-April 99

** Since launch in February 1999

"We proudly stated that we were a World Cup-free zone and an Olympic-free zone. Both these tactics went down well with readers."

Miles confirms that the listings market is still fiercely competitive, but she believes the magazines will thrive if they continue to build distinct brand identities. "Even so, there are still weeks when the four major titles- Radio Times, TV Times, What's on TV and ourselves- all feature the same programmes on their covers."

Distinctive brands

In terms of its own image, TV Quick is seen as the housewives' choice. Radio Times is perceived as upmarket but rather staid, with a brand identity closely linked to that of the BBC.

IPC's TV Times is its flashy neighbour, cosmetically enhanced and with a penchant for dropping celebrity names.

Its stablemate What's on TV is the cheapest of the bunch, with a cover price of 50p - a fact reflected in its no-frills content. It is also the UK's best-selling magazine, with a circulation of more than 1.7 million.

Additionally, IPC owns TV & Satellite Week, a more serious title aimed at the early adopters of new technology. All of these publications are tailoring their listings content, while tentatively looking at ways of taking advantage of alternative media.

IPC's TV Weeklies division has recently been rebranded IPC tx and relaunched as an independent company within the group. Tx is industry jargon for transmission. The new title reflects a shift away from purely print-based listings.

Managing director Sly Bailey says: "We intend to be the market leader in the provision of TV information and entertainment - it just happens that so far our products have been print-led. We are developing a portfolio of complementary products, both electronic and print."

Bailey points out that IPC already has new media experience. …

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