ABC: TV Listings Titles

The television listings sector received a boost in the first six months of the year, with competition among the main publishers heating up following the launch of IPC Media's TV Easy.

At the top of the table, the battle continued between H Bauer's TV Choice and IPC's What's on TV. Both increased their sales period on period, recording rises of 4.8 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively.

Philippa Brown, the group publishing director at IPC tx, says: "It's our biggest growth since 1999 and the gap between us as market leader and the rest has increased as well. All of this and we are still 10p more expensive than TV Choice."

Julie Lavington, a publishing director at Bauer, says: "TV Choice has shown another spectacular performance, moving to number two in the sector. The magazine has now grown by 50 per cent in the past four years."

IPC's TV Easy debuted with an ABC figure of 340,018 copies. It has joined a market many deemed too mature to handle another title but it has contributed to a 7.3 per cent increase for the sector.

However, it is not without its critics and some suggest that because TV Easy was only audited for nine weeks, the result is not a true reflection of its actual sales. Some industry insiders believe the title is only selling about 240,000 copies a week and that its increase in cover price from 30p to 35p will have a negative impact.

"TV Easy started at 30p and was selling quite well," Kathy Day, the publisher of Radio Times, says. "But once it went up to 35p, the sales fell off the edge."

Day adds that many of TV Easy's readers have moved across from its more expensive stablemate,What's on TV, and that the next ABC figures will reflect this shift.

Despite all this cutthroat competition, BBC Magazines' Radio Times has continued to sell more than one million copies a week at the premium price of 93p. The cover price is set to increase to 95p next month.

Day is happy to let the other titles fight between themselves while she endorses the premium quality of her product. "We sit above all of this price cutting," she says. "If you charge a premium price, you have to offer a premium product. Price cutting delivers very different products. We're constantly investing the money back into the magazine to make sure it is the best title on the shelves."

TV Times took another hit as sales dropped by 11.7 per cent both period on period and year on year. The magazine, under pressure from Radio Times, seems to be in terminal decline. However, Brown says that there are plans to rescue the title. "There is a lot of work to do but it is still a profitable title so it's worth fighting for. I can't say what we are planning yet but it will be something big," she says.

The soap sector is still growing, with two of the three titles increasing their sales over the period. This is despite five's decision to axe Family Affairs and poor storylines prompting viewers to switch off EastEnders.

"Our magazines depend somewhat on good storylines, so this is a great performance given the circumstances, " Sarah Vickery, the publishing director of soap titles at Hachette Filipacchi, says.

Inside Soap, Soaplife and All About Soap all posted period rises.

Verdict: After a period of decline, the television listings sector has been rejuvenated by the launch of TV Easy. Whether the new title can sustain the growth of the sector or ends up stealing share from established magazines remains to be seen.

TV LISTINGS TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on- period year % change % change What's on TV IPC 1,673,790 5.4 2.4 TV Choice H Bauer 1,157,622 4.8 6.9 Radio Times BBC Magazines 1,080,199 -2.6 -2.2 TV Times IPC 418,192 -11.7 -11.7 TV Easy IPC 340,018 n/a n/a TV Quick H Bauer 313,454 -7.0 -11.6 TV & Satellite Week IPC 222,737 5.5 0.1 Inside Soap Hachette Filipacchi 182,618 0.1 0.3 Total TV Guide H Bauer 93,137 -3.4 -10.1 Soaplife IPC 90,672 13.3 0.1 All About Soap Hachette Filipacchi 81,009 12.8 -8.1 Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2005.