TV Guide Network Needs A Bigger Picture

Considering all the focus on independently owned, mostly single cable network companies (Hallmark Channel and Oxygen, both in the news), one wonders what might happen now to the TV Guide Network.

TV Guide, TV Guide Network, and other assets of Gemstar-TV Guide Inc. agreed to be purchased by the large digital media technology services company, Macrovision , for $2.8 billion.

Speculation is that the two main traditional TV Guide media assets don't fit too easily into a company focused on other areas -- anti-piracy and content protection, digital rights management products and technologies.

Macrovision really wants Gemstar-TV Guide for its library of entertainment programming listings, to create interactive content information platforms.

The same rules apply for TV Guide Network as any other sole entity in the cable network universe -- how can you grow and develop without being part of a group of cable networks under one big media tent?

TV Guide Network is in some 81 million homes. But like some other networks of its type and size -- Hallmark Channel, for instance -- it grabs on average just 3 cents a subscriber per month from cable operators. Last year TV Guide Network pulled in a modest $130 million in national advertising revenue.

In this digital media age in dealing with major cable networks -- especially when expanding shelf space -- it would seem to be a necessity to have a "suite" of similar media assets, especially when major media buying organizations are looking for "integrated" and "360" media deals.

As Macrovision executives note, the TV Guide brand still carries major value for consumers. The magazine's Web site is growing smartly, while the now regular-magazine-size TV Guide has seen advertising pages recently climb 28%.

Where would a TV Guide Network fit among other big media players?  

The channel, which at its core is about its scroll of TV listings, is still useful to many. It also has a number of key programs that surround awards shows, such as the Emmys.

Bravo would seem to be a good fit, as the network gravitates towards subject matter about TV, like the critically acclaimed  Television Without Pity Web site, as well as the TVBigShot and Brilliant But Cancelled digital areas.

Time Warner might make a good fit, especially in combination with Entertainment Weekly. Still with T-W possibly looking to sell its magazine group, it might not be willing to take on another pricey entertainment magazine asset.

Comcast's E! Entertainment Network might also make sense, giving  E! some editorial cachet with TV Guide's longtime franchise.

Macrovision says the plan for TV Guide assets is for it to be the core in a number of new digital and mobile platforms. Whatever it does, the company should keep living up to its TV Guide brand, and look at the bigger picture



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