Media: Double Standards - Telly addicts - it takes one to know one

The publishers of the leading TV listings titles talk about cover-price wars, killing off soap characters and the nation's favourite pastime.

KATHY DAY - publisher, Radio Times

- Do you think that magazines and newspapers are generally underpriced?

The art of publishing is understanding the value of what you provide for your readers and the market context in which you supply it. Getting your price point right is key in maximising revenues and long-term profitability. Some publishers are good at it, others are not so good.

- Why have two leading titles (What's on TV and TV Choice) reduced their cover price?

Obviously, I'm not party to their decision-making, but I'm guessing that What's on TV acted because it could see its market-leading position was going to be captured and TV Choice because it wasn't prepared to lose its opportunity of doing just that. And, of course, there is the rumoured threat of a new entrant into the budget end of the market and this activity is building the barriers to entry pretty high.

- What do you think will be the result?

Both companies will lose a lot of money and eventually one of them will crack ... but it's anybody's guess which one. Who has the deepest pockets and the strongest will - Time Warner or Mr Bauer?

- What do you think is the main threat to the TV listings magazine market? And how can this be overcome?

The price war devalues the provision of basic listings information. Before TV Choice launched, What's on TV was 50p. It will be difficult for those consumers currently paying 30p or 35p to move back to that price point swiftly. Overcoming this is all about providing three things: better listings; a demonstrable understanding of your readers and giving them insightful recommendations; compelling features about the nation's favourite pastime.

- How have you marketed your TV title(s) in the last year?

We have spent more than £1 million on R&D and subsequent editorial investment. We are currently in the midst of a direct marketing programme and a promotion on national radio. We will be looking to market it much more actively this year.

- How important is advertising revenue to Radio Times/TV Choice?

Of huge importance and I'd like to think Radio Times is equally important to the advertising community. With three million readers each week, delivering more ABC1 readers than any other paid-for consumer magazine, all consulting it many times during the week, Radio Times offers a fantastic ad vehicle for a multitude of clients.

- How do you think the BBC's promise not to support its magazines with television promotion will affect sales of its titles?

We're really happy with the improving sales trend on Radio Times and I believe that strong, well-targeted magazines will always flourish.

- What's your favourite TV programme of all time?

I'm a great fan of beautifully observed poignant comedy. I'd probably say The Royle Family, but Shameless, Porridge, The Office and Early Doors are all close. Sex in the City also had me making appointments to view and the One Life strand on BBC1 was stunning.

- What soap storyline has got you hooked?

I don't watch the main soaps, but I'm pretty hooked on the plotlines in Desperate Housewives at the moment.

JULIE LAVINGTON - publishing director, TV Choice, TV Quick, Total TV Guide

- Do you think that magazines and newspapers are generally underpriced?

I think magazines and newspapers are generally very good value for money. As with all product sectors, there is a wide variety of price points in the magazine and newspaper market, with pricing appropriate to the particular brand or market in which they operate. The customer dictates whether a magazine is good value for money by actively making a brand choice.

- Why have two leading titles (What's on TV and TV Choice) reduced their cover price?

Price reduction was never part of our strategy - sales of TV Choice were already soaring without any need to lower the price. However, the decision by IPC to cut the price of What's on TV left us with no option but to lower the price of TV Choice. The magazine's brand proposition has always been "the best-value TV magazine" and we will do everything to protect it.

- What do you think will be the result?

TV Choice gives the consumer comprehensive, easy-to-use listings combined with a strong editorial package at a great value price. This proposition has not changed as a consequence of the price cut. Sales have been growing consistently over the past few years and I envisage this growth continuing.

- What do you think is the main threat to the TV listings magazine market? And how can this be overcome?

There is a wide range of TV listings information available, and this is constantly on the increase, in both magazines and newspapers. The free newspaper listings supplements continue to pose a particular threat to the paid-for market. However, the superior quality and depth of information provided by the paid-for TV listings magazines is the key to overcoming this threat.

- How have you marketed your TV title(s) in the last year?

We use a variety of different media channels to promote our magazines. During the past year, Total TV Guide has had a TV and interactive campaign on the digital platform. TV Choice had considerably marketing activity on TV and through direct mail.

- How important is advertising revenue to Radio Times/TV Choice?

Advertising is a very important revenue stream for us and owing to its circulation success, advertising in TV Choice has been rising considerably. Volume has increased by 29 per cent during the past two years.

- How do you think the BBC's promise not to support its magazines with television promotion will affect sales of its titles?

Advertising on the BBC has helped to reinforce its magazine brands over a considerable number of years. It will now have to look for alternative means of reinforcing these in order to maintain sales. It will level the playing field in terms of marketing commitment.

- What's your favourite TV programme of all time?

There are loads, as I'm a complete TV addict. However, my favourite of all time has to be Coronation Street. I've watched it since I was a child. It just gets better and never ceases to make me laugh or cry - often at the same time.

- What soap storyline has got you hooked?

Unsurprisingly, it's Corrie's current "killer Katy" storyline. I've got to say, if she hadn't whacked him over the head, I might have done it myself.

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