Magazines weigh on profits despite revamp

Time Warner is looking to unload publisher Time Inc., home of Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and People, to Meredith Corp. after the division has changed editors, shifted strategies and laid off hundreds of staffers as it adapts to painful shifts in the print landscape.

 

Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith owns broadcast stations and a stable of national titles including Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and American Baby. Fortune magazine, the Time Inc. title that first reported talks, said the two publishers met Thursday to discuss a deal.

 

A Time Warner spokesman had no comment.

 

An agreement may fail to emerge. But talks indicate the conglom may have finally decided it’s time to make turning around the magazine business someone else’s problem. Meredith’s battery of traditional women’s titles would get a big lift from the addition of names like People and InStyle.

 

Time Warner has slimmed down dramatically over the past several years, happily cutting the cord with Time Warner Cable and jumping for joy when it split off AOL. But Time Warner toppers have historically been reluctant to mess with the legacy of Henry Luce, who founded the weekly Time magazine in 1923. Time Inc. went on to launch numerous titles over the years and acquire others, becoming an industry giant and merging with Warner Communications in 1989.

 

Fortune, in fact, said one scenario on the table is that Time Warner will hang on to Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, carving out the others into a separate company to sell.

 

Time Warner is firing ahead on TV and film, focused on digital distribution with a new head of Warner Bros. studios in Kevin Tsujihara. The company posted strong quarterly last week but publishing continues to be a drag despite the potential of the Web editions and new devices.

 

Time Inc.’s operating profit plunged 25% for 2012 to $420 million. Revenue fell 7% in 2012 to $3.4 billion.

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