INTERNATIONAL: Fortnightly TV titles prove threat to German weekly listings magazines

A new breed of TV titles is shaking traditional sales. Alasdair Reid investigates

A new breed of TV titles is shaking traditional sales. Alasdair Reid

investigates



Television guides are not often the battleground on which magazine wars

are fought and won.



Except, that is, in Germany, where a relatively new phenomenon - the

fortnightly listings guide - has sparked a price war which has pitted

three of the country’s top publishers against each other in a bloody

battle for market share.



TV Today, which instigated the price war back in the spring of this

year, appears to have gained the most out of the war, increasing its

circulation by 60 per cent year on year, according to the latest figures

from Germany’s circulation bureau, the IVW.



Launched in 1994, Gruner and Jahr’s TV Today is the youngest of the

three fortnightlies and it has also proved to be the most aggressive. On

the back of a Dm10 million (pounds 4 million) advertising campaign, TV

Today cut its price from Dm2.30 to Dm1 for one issue, then raised it

again to Dm1.80, where it has stayed ever since. Its two rivals -

Bauer’s TV Movie and Milchstrasse’s TV Spielfilm - were both taken by

surprise. It was six weeks before they decided they had to follow suit.



Harald Kunzer, the advertisement director for TV Today, says: ‘We are

very pleased with the figures. We have achieved our goal. But the sector

as a whole is the winner - it has put on more than 700,000 copies in

total. I think we would all now like to see our cover prices raised to

somewhere around Dm3 for next year.’



All three fortnightly titles increased circulation during the summer,

mainly at the expense of the weekly listings guides. But TV Today’s

circulation has continued to rise, while TV Spielfilm and TV Movie lost

some of their gains over the third quarter.



Ironically, in Bauer’s case, the rise of TV Movie has been at the

expense of its own titles, two of which are among Germany’s top three

weekly guides. Auf Einen Blick and TV Horen und Sehen, have both been

feeling the pinch, although the third of the big weekly hitters, Horzu,

relaunched during the summer and appears to have halted a circulation

slide. The sector’s problems aren’t going to go away, however.



At the root of the problem with the weeklies is that the fortnightlies

target younger, more affluent viewers by focusing on sport and Hollywood

interviews.



They also provide a fortnight’s listings information for less than half

the price of two issues of a weekly. In contrast, weekly listings guides

are essentially downmarket women’s magazines, with listings information

thrown in.



The weeklies still have a combined sale of more than 15 million, but

there are 13 of them and the graph has been on a downward slope for five

years. In the same period, the fortnightlies gained a combined sale of

more than six million and have also pulled the all important tide of

advertising revenue strongly in their direction.



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Top Titles

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                   Sales 3rd Q 96    Sales 3rd Q 95

                     (millions)        (millions)

Fortnightlies

TV Today                 1.158            0.722

TV Spielfilm             2.514            2.132

TV-Movie                 2.659            2.309

Top three weeklies

Horzu                    2.367            2.426

Auf Einen Blick          2.310            2.504

TV Horen und Sehen       1.937            2.047

Source: IVW/HMS Carat

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