We’re being blitzed by stories of price wars. Asda and Tesco are at
it, then there’s the pre-paid mobile phone market and, of course, the
constant battle in the newspaper market. Now TV magazines are slugging
it out, ready to fight to the bitter end to maintain or improve their
share of the market.
The spark for this latest magazines spat was the launch by Bauer earlier
this month of TV Choice. Nestling among the myriad of other TV titles on
the newsagents’ shelves, it looks pretty innocuous with the usual bunch
of soap stars smiling from its covers, but its price is a stab in the
heart for its rival, IPC tx, coming in 15p cheaper than What’s on TV at
IPC’s response last week to permanently cut the price of WoTV to that of
TV Choice is not surprising. WoTV is, after all, the largest-selling
consumer magazine in the market, with a circulation of 1,975,356, and
obviously has a lot to lose if TV Choice takes off.
At the time of launch, Bauer said that TV Choice’s USP would be its low
cover price and the fact that it would be very simple to use. An
interesting proposition, given that it doesn’t take many brain cells to
digest a TV listings guide, but no doubt many viewers are somewhat
overwhelmed by the ever expanding number of channels and programmes they
can watch. And so I guess that is a new battleground - clarity and
simplicity of design.
However, The Sun’s decision last week to close its listings magazine,
The Source, because of over-supply in the market, indicates that there
are too many titles -free and paid-for - jostling for space. And
certainly the news of Bauer launching yet another listings title left me
wondering what the publisher was up to, other than trying to make IPC
Of course, this is not the first time a German publisher has caused IPC
to bristle through aggressive marketing tactics. When Gruner & Jahr
launched a gossip celebrity magazine, Here!, in 1996, IPC’s instant
response was to cut the cover price of its two best-selling titles at
the time, Woman and Woman’s Own. IPC was to later triumph when it bought
Here! and combined it with its own gossip title Now! which at present is
performing particularly well in a crowded weeklies market.
The big unknown, however, is what will happen to listings magazines when
electronic programme guides come into force. Radio Times may get a
facelift this week, and Bauer, IPC and others may be flaunting their
products ever more desperately, but the future of the print side of this
industry is uncertain and could be as outdated as analogue TV in a
All this sparring over price could soon be irrelevant as companies vie
to produce the best, most interactive and effective electronic TV
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4 Claire Beale is away.