IPC Media's market-leading title What's on TV was down significantly, with H Bauer's TV Choice closing the gap in second place.
Julie Lavington, the group publishing director for TV Choice, TV Quick and Total TV Guide at Bauer, says: "The good news generally is that the listings market is up by 170,000 sales and TV Choice is leading the way. This is its tenth consecutive increase and a reflection of the quality of the editorial package."
Lavington indicated that, in general, the budget TV titles are having a better time of it than more established premium titles such as BBC Magazines' Radio Times and IPC's TV Times.
Bauer's second-best-selling title, TV Quick, narrowly outsold IPC's TV Easy. A recent launch, TV Easy, had a difficult second half of 2005, losing 16.3 per cent of the sales it gained in the first half.
Despite the 5.3 per cent year-on-year fall in What's on TV's circulation, IPC says it is happy with the title's performance and continued market leadership. It argues that What's on TV's increased coverprice (at 40p, it is 10p more than TV Choice) is driving retail sales value in the listings market.
Philippa Brown, the managing director of IPC tx, says: "What's on TV is a publishing powerhouse, outselling its key competitor by more than 290,000 copies every week. Celebrating its 15th birthday this spring, it has always delivered an unrivalled editorial package, offering consumers the best-value magazine for only 40p."
IPC hopes that the recent revamp of TV Times will have the effect of boosting circulation over the next six months. The title suffered a significant drop in sales during 2005. IPC continued its strategy of increasing coverprices with a 5p rise in TV Times to 90p. Its TV & Satellite Week title, which experienced a slight year-on-year sales decline, also rose in price by a total of 10p over 2005 to £1.
Overall, the market has remained relatively static since deregulation 15 years ago, with total sales remaining around the five million mark.
So far, there is little evidence that electronic programme guides are damaging the market.
However, sales of the market's third-ranked title, Radio Times, were down slightly year on year. Despite this, Peter Phippen, the managing director of BBC Magazines, is unfazed and says: "Radio Times is still the UK's biggest magazine brand, with an outstanding performance in the fierce paid-for listings market."
Sales of soap titles were relatively static, with Hachette Filipacchi's market-leading title Inside Soap posting a slight year-on-year increase.
IPC's Soaplife also boosted its sales by more than 5 per cent. Hachette's All About Soap suffered a 2.4 per cent year-on-year drop in its circulation.
Grace Stewart, the group publisher of soap titles at Hachette, says the slight increase in sales from its market-leading Inside Soap title was impressive given greater competition in the market: "Inside Soap continues to show a solid performance. This is particularly strong given the number of weekly launches. Over the past year, we have seen entries from TV Easy, Pick Me Up, Full House, Real People and Love It!. All About Soap, showing a marginal 2 per cent year-on-year drop, is planning a reinvigorated marketing plan to grow sales."
Verdict Publishers predict that increasing take-up of digital TV will help to drive growth in the sector. The fortunes of the soap titles will depend on strong storylines from the likes of EastEnders and Coronation Street. However, weekly celebrity and real-life titles are an undoubted threat.
TV LISTINGS TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on Year-on -period -year % change % change What's on TV IPC 1,502,977 -10.2 -5.3 TV Choice H Bauer 1,212,246 4.7 9.8 Radio Times BBC Magazines 1,093,850 1.3 -1.3 TV Times IPC 407,878 -2.5 -13.9 TV Quick H Bauer 285,733 -8.8 -15.3 TV Easy IPC 284,602 -16.3 n/a TV & Satellite Week IPC 207,119 -7.0 -1.9 Inside Soap Hachette Filipacchi 183,026 0.2 0.4 Total TV Guide H Bauer 92,004 -1.2 -4.5 Soaplife IPC 84,296 -7.0 5.3 All About Soap Hachette Filipacchi 70,118 -13.4 -2.4 Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2005.