There aren’t many new print publications being launched in this tough media climate, but the company behind TV Guide Magazine is trying just that. The team behind TV Guide Magazine (owned since 2015 by Michigan-based NTVB Media) have launched a new magazine focused on the TV streaming platforms, hitting newsstands this week.
The new monthly magazine, TV Insider, features content from the TV Guide Magazine staff — but jettisons the 70-year-old publication’s listings, instead focusing on more coverage of TV programming. The first issue, which has a March 2023 date, features Kiefer Sutherland (star of Paramount+’s new series “Rabbit Hole,” which premieres March 26) on the cover. Peacock’s breakout hit “Poker Face” star Natasha Lyonne will follow up as the April issue’s cover star.
TV Guide Magazine has had less editorial real estate in recent years as a tough advertising market has led to fewer pages — the lion’s share of which are devoted to daily channel grids. The magazine also reduced its trim size to 7”x10” about a decade ago and has more recently pulled back its frequency to just 24 issues a year (double issues for most of the year, with a handful of triple issues in the summer) — also limiting space for editorial show coverage. TV Insider aims to rectify that, said group editorial director Michael Fell.
“The origin of this new monthly came out of our last round of reader surveys,” Fell said. “The percentage of TVGM readers that were watching streaming and wanted to know more about streaming had grown phenomenally. We needed to provide more space in this area. The problem was the grids, as far as physical space. For the TVGM readers who were still watching a lot of broadcast, the grids were still a valuable resource for them. But that was limiting how much we could expand for streaming.”
In TV Guide Magazine, the grids take up two pages per night; for a double issue, that means 28 pages. An earlier attempt in 2014 to reduce the grids to one page per night and free up space for more content provoked outcry from readers. [Full disclosure: I was executive editor at TV Guide Magazine when we attempted that experiment, which quickly reverted back.]
Although a far cry from its heyday as the top-circulated publication in the country, TV Guide Magazine continues to clock in a rate base of about 1 million (and a total audience of 6 million), with a median age of 58 — which means there’s still a large contingency of readers who utilize those grid listings.
TV Insider magazine will be slightly larger than TV Guide Magazine, boasting thicker paper stock vs. the super-thin paper in the old magazine. Fell said the company decided not to make this a “streaming edition” of TV Guide Magazine in order to make clear the differentiation, that there are no traditional grid listings in this book — something that the red TV Guide logo is synonymous with. (The cover of TV Insider still denotes that this is “from the editors of TV Guide Magazine,” however.)
“We’re not running away from that association and part of what we’re selling is the experience [of the TVGM team],” Fell said. “The unmatched experience on the consumer level of the staff in writing and reporting about television. But I think visually on the stand, we want something quick and very punchy. So, a new name a new logo… In TVGM, we’re still covering streaming, it’s just a few pages.”
The new magazine shares the same name as TVInsider.com, the website launched by TV Guide Magazine in 2015 to serve as its online home. In utilizing the TV Insider name, the new magazine will also have more freedom in linking back and forth between the print and online destinations.
The confusion behind the separation between TVGuide.com (now owned by Fandom) and TV Guide Magazine continues to be a source of frustration, limiting how much presence TV Guide Magazine can have online. That dilemma dates back to Macrovision’s decision to split the company into two in 2008, selling TVGuide.com and the TV Guide Network (now Pop TV) to one company, with TV Guide Magazine going to another. TV Guide Magazine’s then-owners Open Gate Capital struck a deal for its content to appear on TVGuide.com, but that arrangement ultimately proved limiting (and costly, as the magazine paid a fee for the ability to sell subscriptions and post content on TVGuide.com but didn’t share in online ad revenue).
TV Guide Magazine and TVGuide.com broke all ties in 2015, when TVGM launched TVInsider.com — but under terms of its licensing deal (TVGuide.com owns the rights to the brand), there were certain things TVGM couldn’t do. That’s why the magazine recently decided to switch the names attached to its well-trafficked social media sites from TV Guide Magazine to TV Insider.
Despite the pullback from the TV Guide logo and brand, Fell said he still believed in the trademark. “It’s an important part of the business,” Fell said. “The brand is awesome. But TV Guide, the logo, it can only live so much on the website because of those limits. So, we want to dig into where it can live and maintain it as best as possible, which is those million subscribers. We’re very limited with using TV Guide red-and-white logo on the internet besides selling purposes and subscription purposes. So, we’re digging into where we can grow. If we can grow online with TV Insider, both the website and the magazine, that’s where it will go. And we’re doing our damnedest to continue to dig into TV Guide where it can continue to live.
As for TV Insider magazine, the first issue is a more robust 74 pages, and includes much more editorial content devoted to programs on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video (and Freevee), Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max, Britbox, AMC+, Acorn and MGM+. There’s also still a bit of space for broadcast, as The CW, PBS, NBC, CBS and ABC all get some coverage. The back of the book is devoted to a different kind of grids: Four pages listing movies now streaming on the various services; and a four-page alphabetized list of key shows now streaming and where to watch them.
“For every page of grid that we don’t have in TV Insider, I can do more editorial,” Fell said.
And in a nod to the fact that this is TV Insider, not TV Guide, there’s a word search puzzle in the back instead of the famed TVGM crossword.
Paramount Global served as the launch advertising partner, with ads for Pluto TV as well as Paramount+’s “Rabbit Hole,” “Queen of the Universe” and “Are You the One?” sprinkled throughout the book.
That partnership coincides with “Rabbit Hole” star Sutherland on the cover — but the star is also a TV Guide Magazine favorite and staple, having appeared on TVGM’s cover 15 times.
“We were out at TCA going through who we wanted to sit down and have fresh interviews with and also do photo shoots for TV Insider and TV Guide Magazine, and we went through the list of talent: What’s the biggest name? Who’s the most powerful, familiar TV name that people will recognize immediately?” Fell said. “Kiefer stood head and shoulders above everyone else for putting an iconic television star on our first cover.”
TV Insider will also start a subscription campaign this week to expand its circulation, with a charter deal for 10 issues at $19.95 (the cover price is $7.99). Fell said the hope is to target a new audience not interested in TVGM’s grids but still looking for guidance in what’s worth watching in streaming.
“We’re starting as a newsstand product and then looking to grow it into a subscription product,” Fell said. “We’re starting with the base of regular readers, this massive percentage change of people who want to stream much more than they did a few years ago. And I think just recently the hours viewers put in in streaming just recently surpassed broadcast and cable. We’re hoping to deliver a brand-new product to the world focused on streaming. It’s not your old TV Guide.”