TV Guide Launches Direct Marketing Arm to Tap Magazine Database

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Multimedia giant TV Guide Inc., Tulsa, OK, has entered the direct marketing arena with TV Guide Direct, a new division that will market products and services through the Internet and directly to the 12-million subscriber database of TV Guide magazine.


The company tapped John Lappegaard, who most recently was president of the Spring Hill division of cataloger Foster & Gallagher, Peoria, IL, as executive vice president and general manager of the new division. It will be based at the New York headquarters of TV Guide magazine.


"We want to take the database that's been developed from the very large TV guide subscriber file and kind of apply state-of-the-art direct marketing techniques in terms of understanding that file better and understanding what some of the lifestyle, demographic and, hopefully, buying preferences might be and tailor appropriate merchandise offerings for them," he said.


Lappegaard, who spent most of his career with catalog giant Fingerhut before leaving in 1990, said it was too early in the process to determine what types of products TV Guide Direct might offer.


"Everything is kind of fair game at the moment," he said. He also said he expected to use "any and all direct marketing media, including direct mail."


The new division also is expected to market products and services through the other media channels owned by TV Guide Inc., which include several cable channels and a presence on the Internet. Although the company's Web site (www.tvguide.com) hosts third-party e-commerce businesses, it does not yet offer any proprietary products. Lappegaard said he expects to launch an e-commerce component as part of the new division.


TV Guide, which recently merged with United Video Satellite Group, operates three primary business units: TV Guide Entertainment Group, TV Guide Magazine Group and United Video Group. Its holdings include the TV Guide Channel, TV Guide Interactive, the Cable Guide, Sneak Prevue, WGN, KTLA, WPIX and Denver 6 Services.


Although each of those media platforms also have significant subscriber bases, Lappegaard said he saw the most immediate opportunity in the TV Guide magazine file. Counting its newsstand sales, TV Guide magazine has the largest circulation of any weekly magazine in the world, with an estimated 35 million readers.


"The subscriber list [for TV Guide Magazine] is probably the most database-usable at this point," he said. "Obviously, a magazine subscription or circulation business has a lot of direct links with traditional direct mail, but anywhere we touch consumers, including the cable viewers, are places we want to figure out a way to market to those people."


TV Guide also has a burgeoning presence in the digital cable industry, with 1.7 million subscribers tuning in to TV Guide Interactive.


Other new media vehicles TV Guide has in the pipeline include a large-sized weekly "Ultimate Cable" magazine and the TV Games Network, which is expected to launch in the summer.


Christopher P. Dixon, an analyst with PaineWebber, New York, said that TV Guide's recent acquisitions in the cable industry position it well to offer direct response vehicles for marketing proprietary products.


"Clearly, direct marketing can provide increased revenue for any one of the TV Guide brands," he said.
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