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TV Guide tweaks again

Major changes set at weekly mag

TV Guide on Monday announced more major changes following last year’s $20 million redesign, coming as the weekly mag continues the hunt to shore up readership and find a new editor in chief.

Beginning with the May 16 issue, the new “Big Movie Guide” is now listed by genre, vs. alphabetically. And being introduced for the first time is an alphabetical index of all new series and specials airing that week.

New feature “Hits and Misses” will replace the “Highlights” column accompanying each Sunday-Friday primetime grid. And the “Weekday Daytime Highlights” feature is being reintroduced.

“It’s not an overhaul, but nor is it just fine-tuning,” TV Guide Publishing prexy John Laughlin said.

The alterations and additions grew out of consumer reaction and internal discussions regarding last September’s redesign, Laughlin said.

Guiding those discussions was former TV Guide editor in chief Michael Lafavore, who abruptly resigned from the book earlier this month.

TV Guide is said to be sounding out the possibility of bringing former ABC TV exec Susan Lyne into the fold.

Laughlin declined to comment on Lyne, but said he continues to talk to prospective candidates. Also earlier this month, magazine parent company Gemstar TV Guide went into a stock free fall after the listing publisher and TV channel unexpectedly slashed its 2004 earnings forecast in light of a continued sales bleed at its flagship mag and skyrocketing legal expenses.

The health of the magazine is investors’ primary concern at the moment. Circulation is holding at 9 million but newsstand volume was down more than 20% in the past quarter. That decline erased any gain from a recent price increase to $2.49 from $1.99. Company said it would continue investing in the magazine editorial and subscriber acquisition.

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