Magazine ABCs July-Dec 2006: TV listings titles

Overall sales for the TV listings market could be best described as static. Sales increased by just 0.8 per cent year on year, and 0.7 per cent period on period. It has been this way for the past few years, and will probably remain so in the near future.

But that said, there is still evidence that there is plenty of activity in the category's sub-sectors, and this is giving rise to plenty of churn, as well as maintaining competition.

Liz Watkinson, the group publisher of H Bauer's TV titles, believes the category can be split into three: "These are premium, mid and budget, and rivalry within them is more intense than ever."

She's not wrong. Especially when it comes to the two titles at the top of the table, What's on TV and TV Choice.

The big story is that TV Choice is closing the gap on its rival by putting on double-digit growth, while the IPC title dropped by 4.3 per cent.

However, Philippa Brown, the managing director at IPC tx, puts this down to Bauer's strategy of price cutting (at 35p, TV Choice is seven pence cheaper than What's on TV), and challenges her rival publisher to meet them on equal terms. She says: "Bauer says that the sales figures are nothing to do with the cover price, but if they're not, why don't they put their prices up? I'm sure they wouldn't turn down an extra seven pence a copy. We have Dunnhumby research showing the older readership have no brand loyalty; they switch because of price, so Bauer is devaluing the market."

Watkinson retorts by saying: "That would be fun, but it's not going to happen any time soon. We're happy where we are. We moved the price up by two pence at Christmas and we're still growing. Its not just price-related, our numbers show value for money is working for the audience."

In the premium sector, the Radio Times still leads the way and continues to be profitable, with a sales value of more than £1 million a week, while IPC's TV Times continues to struggle.

However, Brown sends out another warning to the industry, by promising to bring this title in line with the rest of the market. IPC has slowed its sales decline compared to the last few years.

The real growth in the premium sector has come from the satellite category, which saw IPC's TV & Satellite Week maintain an even keel, while Bauer's Total TV Guide continued to gain ground on its competitor with a 19 per cent year-on-year growth.

Watkinson puts this down to the proliferation of Freeview towards the end of last year. She says: "It grew exponentially, leading to more people needing comprehensive viewing schedules you can't get anywhere else."

But the real surprise has been the soap category. With two of the titles, All About Soap and Soaplife, putting on double-digit growth, the market, which many thought had had its day, has exploded again. Brown says: "The overall sector is up 8.1 per cent.The appetite for soaps is as big as ever and is helping bring younger readers into the market. Plus, they are well-priced magazines, so they're building revenue."

Verdict With no launches and minimal price cutting, the market seems to have remained static. But the growth of TV Easy, the soap sector and TV Choice shows there is some movement. It also shows new readers are entering the market, especially younger ones, who have historically been difficult to draw into the sector.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
What's on TV IPC 1,437,650 -4.8 -4.3
TV Choice H Bauer 1,353,436 5.1 11.6
Radio Times BBC Magazines 1,082,338 1.1 -1.1
TV Times IPC 377,473 1.3 -7.5
TV Easy IPC 293,325 -2.7 3.1
TV Quick H Bauer 246,181 -6.1 -13.8
TV & Satellite
Week IPC 207,327 -2.1 0.1
Inside Soap Hachette Filipacchi 189,183 3.1 3.4
Total TV Guide H Bauer 109,501 8.1 19.0
Soaplife IPC 97,540 5.4 15.7
All About Soap Hachette Filipacchi 78,061 4.3 11.3
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2006.

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