The makeover seems to be paying off, capturing the younger audience that advertisers love. A study last year by market researcher Total Research Corp. showed that people age 20 to 29 had a greater awareness of TV Guide than those 60 and above. That could be because of the heavy dose of music-industry news covered on its TV channel and Web site. "While the technology is changing, what's not is people wanting to be entertained. And the sheer power of our reach is mind-blowing," says Kiener, a former executive at music company EMI Group.
Not that the fall-off in circulation doesn't hurt. After all, at its peak in the mid-1970s, TV Guide had a paid circulation of 20 million and was read by nearly 50 million people each week--nearly 25% of the U.S. population at the time. Those were the magazine's golden days, when upstart TV supplements in Sunday newspapers could do little to chip away at its franchise. In 1988, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS
) laid out $3.2 billion to buy TV Guide from Annenberg's Triangle Publications. Soon after, TV Guide got clobbered by an avalanche of entertainment news, in print and online, that was geared to a younger audience. Today, circulation has fallen to 10 million. True, TV Guide is still the U.S.'s largest-circulation weekly and the fourth-largest of any magazine. But the drop-off, particularly on the newsstand, is troubling to advertisers, says Dan Capell, editor of Capell's Circulation Report.
Once TV listings become so voluminous that they have to go online or on TV-screen guides, will TV Guide magazine be dead? Absolutely not, says Kiener. With so many choices on TV, finding what you want to watch will be "cumbersome," he says. "You will need editorial guidance. That's what we will give you in the next generation of our magazine." But with a cramped field of entertainment offerings, a listings-less TV Guide just may end up capping off its rich history in print and continue as a digital-only brand. By Tom Lowry in New York