TV Guide: Guiding Viewers Toward A Few Select Networks

Television marketing can sometimes come down to inches -- or, for some networks, about an eighth of an inch.

That's the minimum size TV Guide seems to devote to one line of program scheduling for the likes of "MSNBC," "Planet Green," or "Style" in its program listings. Bigger networks can get a quarter inch of space across a page. ("CBS: The Unit. CC: Mack is seriously wounded on a mission. HD New.")

TV Guide has been making changes to its longtime program listings since the start of the year -- and not everyone is getting a spot, even some of the better-rated TV networks. We all know what is going on here. TV Guide said it has had to restrict certain channels, about 70 or so -- because of its analog distribution system, a print magazine.

The struggling consumer pub doesn't seem to have a plan for who gets left out -- at least none that readers can figure out. Bloomberg TV appears to be safe. But the bigger MTV isn't in there, or CW for that matter. But you can count on seeing ION or MyNetworkTV -- two lesser-viewed broadcast networks.



As recently as last month, then-sister company TV Guide Network was listed first -- over all the broadcast networks. Now it doesn't have to play favorites, since Macrovision agreed to sell the TV Guide Network to Lionsgate.

In theory this channel diet makes sense. The average TV viewer doesn't regularly watch the hundreds of channels typically available on her cable or satellite system. TV research companies have calculated each viewer only really looks at only about seven, nine or 12 channels on a regular basis. So we don't need the other 488 networks.

Of course, eliminating CW and MTV -- two younger-skewing channels -- seems to make sense. Young adults know their way around electronic TV listings, especially those on DVR systems. TV Guide's demos are no doubt a bit older than CW or MTV's audience, and perhaps more geared to women. Thus the mag still has the likes of Lifetime, QVC, Hallmark, Food Network, and Home & Garden TV.

But why does IFC, VH1, Spike, and that crazy tech-oriented channel, G4, get the nod?

Versus, the widely distributed Comcast Corp. sports network that airs the NHL games, isn't on its pages -- and neither is that young-skewing news channel, Current TV. Fox News is listed; but not Fox Business News.

TV Guide offers just a sampling of the bigger networks' products; though Discovery, ESPN, HBO and Showtime can have up to a dozen or so spinoff networks, the mag lists three or so of each network group.

Is there an editorial connection -- or an advertising one? There is no word yet from TV Guide executives. CW shows "Gossip Girl" and "America's Next Top Model" are always good fodder for big stories in the magazine. Why not a little blurb telling viewers when those shows are on?

5 comments about "TV Guide: Guiding Viewers Toward A Few Select Networks ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Barbara Potasky from Harris, January 14, 2009 at 11:23 a.m.

    Thank you so much for this article. I subscribe to TV Guide and I noticed that all of a sudden (with no notice to their readers) that the CW programs are no longer listed. I have since sent 2 emails to TV Guide asking them to explain themselves - with no response. In my second email, I pointed out that a publication with a declining circulation should extend a little more courtesy and responsiveness in responding to their loyal readers. They don't seem to care, so I will not be continuing my subscription.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 14, 2009 at 12:23 p.m.

    While it still exists, we can use the Sunday Newspaper TV Guide section to help selecting what to watch or record in advance. Digital listings are an aid and do help, but as Kristin points out, it is not as efficient as needed and will be needed even more in the near future.

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 14, 2009 at 1:06 p.m.

    Jeez, who looks at TV Guide anymore??! Is it not 2009?

    TV listings are free at Yahoo and dozens of other sites, so crack open that home-networked laptop and get with the new century. And, a laptop is the second-best alternative to watching those pesky commercials.

    Or pull up the listings before you leave work each day and print it out! Most of these listing websites let you subtract the channels you never/seldom watch!

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 14, 2009 at 5:05 p.m.

    Douglas, did anyone at college tell you (although many people do it) printing out anything you use personally from the office is stealing? Besides, who wants to print out that much info on pages and pages? Buy the magazine - very cheap subs or the paper and get the coupons - very cheap. Oh yeah, stealing is cheaper regardless of the year.

  5. Rebecca Rachmany from AdsVantage, January 21, 2009 at 7:35 a.m.

    What's really fascinating to consider is that it's anybody's guess what channels *are* worth listing. Today's television ratings systems are practically useless when it comes to the long tail.

    Our analysis of click data shows that the great majority of eyeball time is on the "niche" programs. That is, the aggregated niches are much larger than the prime-time ratings. So while it may be true that most people have their favorite 7-10 channels, they aren't the same 7-10 for every viewer.

Next story loading loading..