Magazine ABCs Jan-June 2006: TV listings titles

The first six months of 2006 have been relatively stable in the TV listings sector compared with the price-cutting and launch activity of last year.

This is reflected in the 3.3 per cent decline in the market over the period. Sales averaged five million copies a week for more than a decade, so publishers are not overly concerned by this slight fall in the market.

Philippa Brown, the managing director of IPC tx, says: "The price cutting had a destabilising effect but this has calmed down now."

The market-leading What's on TV's circulation has suffered at the hands of its competitors for years. However, after a March relaunch, it posted a small period-on-period increase. A rise in the cover-price to 42p next month should create an extra £1.85 million in retail value, Brown says.

Bauer's TV Choice, now only 220,000 copies behind What's on TV, posted a double-digit increase of 11.2 per cent.

"It is the magazine's 11th consecutive increase and sales of the title have grown by 70 per cent in the past five years," Julie Lavington, the group publishing director at Bauer, says.

Radio Times again delivered the highest retail sales value at £48 million. However, the BBC is still developing new ways of pushing the brand. Kathy Day, the publisher of Radio Times, says: "We are not just committed to producing the magazine but supporting it with powerful and targeted marketing. Radio Times' sales, electronic programme guide and mobile services make it the most powerful TV listings brand in the UK."

IPC has decided it wants a piece of the multimedia action and is planning to launch a What's on TV mobile service in September.

Bauer's TV Quick, which has been struggling for some time, experienced the biggest annual circulation fall in the sector. However, Lavington is not overly concerned. "That area of the market is exceptionally tough," she says. "We have done a lot of research and found that readers of the magazine see it as treat for themselves and not for the family."

Bauer is planning to relaunch the title on 19 September, extending the magazine's features and including increased coverage of soaps, celebrities, fashion and real life. The magazine's cover-price will increase accordingly.

IPC's TV Easy, the handbag-sized magazine that launched last year, posted an 11.3 per cent decline year on year. However, its circulation increased on the previous period, suggesting TV Easy may be finding its feet in a market many believed had reached saturation point. It will increase its cover-price to 40p next month.

The soap sub-sector now appears to have stabilised, with all the magazines posting slight circulation declines or increases year on year.

The digital and satellite sub-sector showed greater signs of health - Bauer's Total TV Guide posted an 8.8 per cent sales increase year on year. However, IPC's TV & Satellite Week showed a slight decline.

Lavington says: "The growth of digital TV - notably Freeview - is great for the industry because it is bringing new readers into the market. It also proves what we have known for years - that electronic programme guides have no effect on magazine sales."

Verdict Now that stability has returned to the market, publishers have had a chance to take stock. A flurry of price increases and a relaunch planned for September could make for interesting reading in six months' time, while the growth of digital TV may bring in some extra readers. However, the market should remain stable.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on Year-on
-period -year
% chg % chg
What's on TV IPC 1,509,519 0.4 -9.8
TV Choice H Bauer 1,287,773 6.2 11.2
Radio Times BBC Magazines 1,070,042 -2.2 -0.9
TV Times IPC 372,712 -8.6 -10.9
TV Easy IPC 301,576 6.0 -11.3
TV Quick H Bauer 262,172 -8.2 -16.4
TV & Satellite Week IPC 211,822 2.3 -4.9
Inside Soap Hachette Filipacchi 183,417 0.2 0.4
Total TV Guide H Bauer 101,295 10.1 8.8
Soaplife IPC 92,558 9.8 2.1
All About Soap Hachette Filipacchi 74,856 6.8 -7.6
Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2006.