TV Guide weathers change

In less than two weeks, TV Guide magazine has been purchased by Macrovision, overseen a flurry of staff changes and gone up for sale again, but executives say the title is holding steady and will not drastically alter its strategies any time soon.

“I don’t think the magazine’s position in the market has changed at all,” said J. Scott Crystal, president of TV Guide magazine. “I think we made a big announcement earlier this week that the magazine turned the corner of profitability on the first quarter of this year, and from that perspective, I guess yes, the magazine may have changed position in the marketplace. I think it is a surprise to many who have read incorrect and irresponsible headlines about the magazine losing money, when it was always part of our plan to return the magazine to profitability after its very costly transformation.”

The magazine’s ad pages were up 22% for 2007 and rose 5.5% in the first quarter this year. “From that point, I am very optimistic and excited about finding a buyer for this magazine,” he said.

Macrovision Corp. got shareholder approval to take over Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. at the very end of April, in a deal worth about $2.8 billion in cash and stock. The new owners were open about their plans to divest certain pieces of Gemstar-TV Guide — namely the magazine, its affiliated TV channel and TVG, a horse-racing channel — while hanging on to its digital assets.

No bidders for the property have been named yet, but Crystal seemed confident that potential changes would not drive the magazine off-course.

“We are definitely continuing to invest in the magazine from an editorial and photographic standpoint and from a marketing standpoint,” he asserted. “We are not letting up on any marketing initiatives. TV Guide magazine has maintained its 3.2 million rate base and 20 million weekly readers since the relaunch in 2005. I think we’re well-positioned for the next phase.”

The magazine did let go a handful of staffers just before the sale became official, but went on to promote a new crop of editorial brass. Debra Birnbaum, who previously served as executive editor of TV Guide‘s cross-platform content integration, was named editor in chief. Former TV Guide West Coast bureau chief Craig Tomashoff moved up to the executive editor position. The two have committed to expanding the magazine’s breaking news coverage and editorial content.

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