CAMPAIGN REPORT: EUROPEAN MEDIA - TV revolution breathes new life into listings/Their circulations may be huge but UK listings magazines generally have a downmarket readership. What can be learnt from France and Germany where such titles appeal to the you

By RICHARD COOK,, Friday, 26 September 1997 12:00AM

No-one falls in love with a listings magazine. People don’t keep them, aspire to them or treasure them. It used to be the case that few people in the UK would even admit to reading one. Few people, that is, within the advertisers’ favoured ABC1 demographic groupings. If pushed, perhaps the typical ABC1 respondent might grudgingly admit to a fondness for that stalwart of the shires, Radio Times.

No-one falls in love with a listings magazine. People don’t keep

them, aspire to them or treasure them. It used to be the case that few

people in the UK would even admit to reading one. Few people, that is,

within the advertisers’ favoured ABC1 demographic groupings. If pushed,

perhaps the typical ABC1 respondent might grudgingly admit to a fondness

for that stalwart of the shires, Radio Times.

Of course, people do read them; despite increased competition, despite

all the glossy products offered by our national newspapers, they read

them in fantastic numbers. It’s just that, by and large, they are not

the right sort of readers. In the UK, for example, in a sector that

together astonishingly touches almost as many readers as the tabloids,

Radio Times is the only national paid-for listings title that has

readers both younger and more upmarket than the average for the country

as a whole.

In the UK it is still considered an achievement that the sector survived

deregulation - the incursion of newspapers which had, for years, been

locked out of publishing full TV and radio listings by a restrictive


’The last six-month period has been the first since deregulation in

which Radio Times has consistently published issues which outsold the

previous year’s,’ the BBC Worldwide managing director, Peter Phippen,

admits. And deregulation was ushered in as far back as 1991.

But even if the sector in the UK is simply treading water, in sales

terms there is cause for considerable optimism in the market once more.

Since deregulation, the UK listings titles have constantly watched their

sales erode, as newspapers launched ever more lavish listings

supplements of their own. But there is evidence that this decline has

bottomed out, while the recent experience from countries like Germany

and France, where listings titles sell in vastly greater numbers, is

extremely positive. Not least because the readers who are now being

attracted to a new breed of listings title are younger and more affluent

than has often been the case.

Publishers now have the confidence to invest in titles and this is

proving crucial to achieving growth. Nicholas Brett, editor of Radio

Times, says: ’In the most challenging time in the market since

deregulation we’ve driven sales with a focused marketing strategy to

reward and lock in our loyal readers, have increased sampling with a

direct mail campaign and, most important of all, invested in the

magazine with eight extra pages a week.’

For Radio Times that has meant an expanded film section covering cinema

releases, not just TV and video offerings, and also the launch of a

flagship Internet site. Both have helped limit the sales damage in the

most recent ABC period to a very manageable 0.4 per cent year on


Radio Times remains hugely profitable because of its younger, affluent

readership, but that is still a rarity among the mass-market UK paid-for

listings titles. IPC’s TV & Satellite Week, TV Times and What’s On TV

and Bauer’s TV Quick all have readers slightly older and more downmarket

than the national average.

On the Continent, however, considerable strides have been made at

broadening the readership base of listings titles.

Radio Times would not have its upmarket demographic to itself if it were

published in Germany, for example, where titles like Bauer’s TV Movie,

Milchstrasse’s TV Spielfilm and Gruner & Jahr’s TV Today all boast

significantly younger readers than well-respected news magazines such as

Der Spiegel, yet these readers also have a similar educational

background and level of disposable income. Successful fortnightly

listings titles have breathed new life into a market that now sells more

than 40 million copies in all - one for every two men, women and

children in the whole country.

Amazingly, analysts believe that figure will increase, especially after

the two rival digital TV consortia - led by Kirch on one hand and

Bertelsmann on the other - agreed earlier this month to start to

co-operate in creating the digital TV future. It’s a deal that is likely

to lead to the establishment of digital’s 100-plus channels sooner

rather than later. And, as Germany already bears handsome witness, the

more viewer choice there is, the more those viewers will turn to

listings guides for help in making their choice.

The listings market in Germany - and in France to a lesser extent - has

benefited from two accidents of cultural development. Both countries

have already seen a proliferation of TV channels. France has seven

terrestrial channels and more than a third of all homes are already

passed for cable.

In Germany the choice is even greater: the abundance of local stations

and the highest cable connection rates in Europe mean it is not

untypical for homes to have access to around 30 channels. That

translates to around 1,000 different TV programmes a day.

With that background, it’s perhaps not surprising that viewers need a

lot more navigation around the new multi-channel environment.

The other great advantage both countries enjoy over the UK is the

absence of dominant mass-circulation national newspapers. The four daily

British tabloids sell more than ten million copies between them: the top

four German papers sell barely half that. And the heavily regional

German newspaper market is managing a longer-term decline. According to

Zenith Research, between 1992 and 1996 average total newspaper

circulations fell by 3.1 per cent to just over 25 million. In France the

situation is even more extreme - the best-selling title is the regional

daily, Ouest France, and that sells fewer than a quarter of a million

copies. No other single title manages sales of even half-a-million

copies. The TV listing title with the biggest circulation, Hersant’s TV

Magazine, has a distribution of more than four-and-a-half million

copies, ironically, within a selection of newspapers, and claims a

readership of one in four French people.

One consequence of this fragmentation of the newspaper market is that

while the papers in both countries all print daily listings, the

specialist magazines are not faced with an aggressive tabloid opposition

able to invest heavily in a glossy listings product that can really

compete. In both countries many titles sub-contract the job to the

listings publishers and club together to offer a common weekly


For the magazine publishers, competition comes almost exclusively from

within the sector.

’Weekly TV listings circulations have fallen back slightly in Germany as

a result of the success of some newer titles,’ Jonathan Barnard, the

author of Zenith’s German research, explains. ’The leading weekly titles

are Auf Einen Blick from Bauer and Axel Springer’s Horzu, whose paid

circulations have fallen by 8 per cent and 2 per cent respectively since

the start of 1996. But overall, weekly television listings circulations

have been poached by Germany’s three newer fortnightly TV listings

titles. Together the three have increased their combined circulations by

36 per cent to nearly seven million at the start of 1997, compared with

just over five million at the start of 1996.’

The only weekly listings title that has continued to put on sales has

been a magazine with one of the youngest and best-educated readerships -

and the cheapest cover price - the lurid TV Neu. This Axel Springer

title improved sales by nearly 9 per cent in 1996 to pass the one

million mark.

The experience of Germany’s largest listings publisher, Bauer, confirms

this trend away from the mass-market weeklies in favour of the younger,

more dynamic fortnightlies. Overall, Bauer’s sales - heavily dependent

on the weeklies market - have been falling since 1992. But last year its

flagship fortnightly title, the top-selling TV Movie, also suffered as a

result of the upheaval in the fortnightly market that perversely helped

reinvigorate the listings market as a whole.

’When the fortnightly listings magazines launched they were a new way of

looking at the market,’ David Hardy, managing director of G&J

International Marketing and Media Services, explains. ’They were aimed

at the educated under-40s and covered movies and film stars as well as

things such as the business of TV - all designed to attract a younger


Unfortunately, G&J’s entrant to this sector, TV Today, at first lagged

badly behind the other two titles, selling barely more than a fifth of

the likes of TV Movie and TV Spielfilm.

Last year, G&J showed just how big the market for TV listings could be

among the same affluent, younger market advertisers were demanding. G&J

cut the price from DM2.20 to DM1 (76 pence to 34 pence) and, just as

significantly, redesigned the magazine to give it a more frenetic look.

The publishing giant - part of the Bertelsmann group - increased the

aspirational nature of the coverage by beefing up the film-star profiles

and film reviews and embarking on a huge marketing drive.

An incipient price war in the listings market was nipped in the bud

after Bauer and Milchstrasse took the matter to the courts to protest at

what they complained was a breach of competition rules. In the event,

the decision went their way but it didn’t stop the sector putting on

sales. TV Today had managed to increase its circulation by 50 per cent

to pass the one million mark before the court intervened. In the year

since the ruling, the title has continued to prosper, putting on another

700,000 copy sales.

’The fortnightly listings magazines have also managed to attract the

sort of advertisers you don’t normally associate with some of the

mass-market weekly magazines,’ Hardy explains. ’Sectors like computing

and holidays have started to become important advertisers, while car

companies such as BMW, Mercedes and Mazda all use the fortnightly

listings market in their campaigns.’

In France the circulation success of the listings titles is assured:

their success in advertising terms rather less so. In part, the struggle

to maintain ad revenues has been one common to all of France’s

non-broadcast media. According to Carat’s estimates, cinema is the only

medium not losing ground to TV in terms of advertising share, where a

relaxation of tough minutage restrictions has artificially elevated

demand over the past couple of years.

The listings market has survived better than most and, as in Germany,

the crucial factor has been extra investment in the products to attract

a younger, wealthier readership.

’The circulation of the most widely distributed listings magazine,

Hachette Filipacchi Presse’s Tele 7 Jours, fell by 6 per cent last

year,’ Barnard points out, ’but the title has since been completely


It’s a similar story elsewhere in the market. Emap spent pounds 140

million last year on three French titles, chiefly on the listings

magazine,Tele Star. The title already sells close to two million copies

a week and complements Emap’s existing 1.3 million-selling Tele Poche.

The stated challenge for the publisher is to help bring the rather

conservative French magazine market up to speed with the rest of Europe,

specifically with Germany.

Tele Poche sold more than one-and-a-half million copies just three years

ago, while at the same time Tele 7 Jours’ circulation was more than

three million.

’A little drifting in the circulation figures of individual titles is

perhaps to be expected, given increased competition in the sector as a

whole,’ a spokeswoman for the Network, Paris, explains, ’but what we are

just starting to see in the listings titles are bolder magazines that

younger people are reading and which are, therefore, proving a little

more attractive to advertisers.’

And this is the TV listings battleground of the future - the struggle

for younger, more affluent readers. In the UK, Haymarket’s launch in

that direction, the Box, was swiftly closed, the company believing the

title was a little ahead of its time for the UK market. If the

experience of Germany is anything to go by, it might just be right.


Title and Publisher                Circulation    Frequency   Readership

Sky TV Guide Redwood                 3,491,173      Monthly       5.89 m

What’s on TV IPC                     1,702,184       Weekly       4.05 m

Radio Times BBC                      1,400,270       Weekly       4.27 m

Cable Guide Cable Guide              1,101,251      Monthly       2.17 m

TV Times IPC                           892,769       Weekly       3.67 m

TV Quick Bauer                         769,708       Weekly       2.39 m

Inside Soap Attic Futura               201,719    F’nightly          N/A

TV & Satellite Week IPC                195,126       Weekly          N/A


Title and Publisher                Circulation    Frequency   Readership

TV Movie Bauer                       2,866,434    F’nightly       6.34 m

TV Spielfilm Milchstrasse            2,745,852    F’nightly       6.47 m

Horzu Axel Springer Verlag           2,406,853       Weekly       7.01 m

Auf Einen Blick Bauer                2,291,746       Weekly       4.69 m

TV Horen und Sehen Bauer             1,886,283       Weekly       5.68 m

TV Klar Bauer                        1,444,394       Weekly       1.77 m

Premiere (Free) Bauer                1,412,671       Weekly          N/A

Funk Uhr Axel Springer Verlag        1,408,000       Weekly       3.38 m

TV Today Gruner & Jahr               1,356,983    F’nightly       3.02 m

Fernsehwoche Bauer                   1,311,894       Weekly       3.55 m

TV Neu Axel Springer Verlag          1,032,481       Weekly       1.20 m

Gong Sebaldus                          704,306       Weekly       2.25 m

Bildwoche Axel Springer Verlag         683,497       Weekly       1.37 m

Bild+Funk Burda                        440,541       Weekly       1.81 m

Super TV Thuringer Zeitchriften Verlag 432,356       Weekly       0.98 m

Die Zwei Sebaldus                      426,254       Weekly       0.72 m


Title and Publisher                Circulation    Frequency   Readership

TV Magazine Hersant                  4,527,000       Weekly   13,561,000

Tele 7 Jours Hachette                2,816,200       Weekly   11,446,000

TV Hebdo Hachette                    2,159,000       Weekly    4,419,000

Tele Z EPM                           2,057,000       Weekly    7,277,000

Tele Star Emap                       1,827,000       Weekly    7,272,000

Tele Loisirs Gruner & Jahr           1,538,000       Weekly    6,262,000

Tele Poche Emap                      1,374,000       Weekly    6,526,000

Telerama PVC                           616,000       Weekly    2,721,000

Sources: Zenith Media, publishers estimates, ABC, NRS.

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