The weekly periodical TV Guide needs to both create and market two new products, TV Guide On Screen, and TV Guide Online. These two new forms of the periodical should be worked on and made available to the consumer as soon as possible, as there are several companies working to undermine TV Guide’s dominance in the industry and are threatening to beat them to the new and informative mediums. Perhaps the most logical way to have the new products gain recognition is to heavily advertise through various forms, ranging from print, radio, and even on television. To help fund and launch advertising campaign, it would be advisable for the publishers of TV Guide to collaborate with the many other companies that News Corporation owns which could, conceivably, reduce the costs of starting the programs. If TV Guide is able to strike a deal with the New York Post, Boston Globe, or one of the many television stations affiliated with News Corporation, there would be a great number of consumers exposed to the new services offered, therefore helping boost the new TV Guide products.
In this document, I will explain how TV Guide can develop new means of communication in the television programming schedules. The new developments carry a huge responsibility because they will decide the fate of TV Guide; if they succeed, TV Guide will remain a high quality, informative product for TV viewers everywhere, if they don’t succeed, TV Guide will surely be phased out by its competitors.
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Background & History
TV Guide, founded by a Walter Annenburg in 1953, is a weekly magazine that informs its readers of television program schedules, cover stories about television shows as well as interviews with television celebrities. TV Guide, over time, became the third largest US magazine, as measured by revenue, and in 1994 was the most circulated weekly periodical. At that time, 14 million copies were in circulation each week, which is considerably fewer than the 1979 peak of 19 million.
In 1988, TV Guide was sold to News Corporation (“News Corp.”), a worldwide firm in control of newspapers, publishing companies, television stations and satellite companies, periodicals and the like. TV Guide was reportedly sold for a sum of 2.8 billion dollars. News Corp. wanted more than to merely own TV Guide, they were interested in expanding it, and moving it into new and progressive technologies to increase its overall circulation. To deal with the objective, a new division under News Corp. called News America New Media (NANM) was opened in 1989. The division was responsible for research and developing new means for TV Guide to be distributed.
The first option the NANM division encountered was the “TV Guide On Screen” idea. The concept, essentially, had two possible routes: passive, where the viewer watches a continuous feed of channel listings on a cable channel, and interactive, where the viewer actively searches through the TV Guide database to find a specific listing. The interactive model allows the viewer to sort listings by category, rating, or a whole list of specific sub-divisions. This interactive model is more viewer-specific or personal approach, rather than grouping all viewers together and having them watch one general channel.
The second option that the division devised was an Internet site that would allow viewers to tap into the wealth of knowledge available via TV Guide. There would be two parts to the site, first the listings section, which would be very similar to printed version of TV Guide, along with the advantages of the interactive On Screen version. The other part of the site would host the in-depth coverage of celebrities, as well as occasional “chat” sessions with the celebrities. The listings would be available to all, free of charge, but the editorials, interviews and chat sessions would be exclusively for TV Guide Online members.
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TV Guide is losing readers in the print format but would like to remain the leader in providing television listings. Other companies, including TV Guide’s direct competitors, have developed advanced technologies that provide viewers with television listings. The two major mediums that have potential to be exploited are television (either via cable boxes or satellite mini-dishes) and the Internet. TV Guide must decide to promote one or both of the new divisions, TV Guide On Screen and Online, to be able to keep up with their new competitors.
Among all of the technical information presented to TV Guide, they are also faced with the problem of deciphering what their options actually are. An abridged version of their options is included, and then a brief summary of the consequences of each particular option.
* A passive channel showing television listings; accessed by buying the channel from a local cable operator.
* A cable box operated interactive television guide. The box is free, but a monthly service charge would apply.
* A free Internet site with television listings, similar to the passive television option.
An Internet “club” offering members interactive services, and bringing television news, celebrity interviews and celebrity chat sessions.
The advantage of the passive television channel is that it would be easy for TV Guide to reach homes across the nation. Contracting deals with individual local cable operators would be the only obstacle preventing TV Guide On Screen from being viewed in every home with cable television. The problem, if there is one, with the passive channel is just that: it is passive. Competitors are offering easy to use interactive systems that allow viewers to seek out the television listings they desire, rather than passively watching the listing go by.
The other television based system being proposed, the interactive version, requires the consumer to obtain a special TV Guide built cable box and pay a monthly fee for the benefits of customized listings. The viewer is able to choose what listings they wish to see, e.g., Sunday football games, romance mysteries rated three stars or better, etc… Having customized listings is, without a doubt, a clear-cut advantage over the passive television option. There is, however, a draw back to the interactive option: it requires the consumer to obtain a specialized cable box. Making the consumer go an extra step to seek out a product will often times be a turn off and make the product less desirable. The less effort a consumer has to do, the more convenient the product is and the more attractive that product becomes.
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In the Internet field, the free site offering listings is a great idea. It is a way to get the TV Guide name out on the Internet, and offers computer users a fast and simple way to check televisions listings. The primary drawback to the site is that it is free, which means it produces no revenue for the company. The costs for maintaining a web page, although not horrendous, are something to consider. The free web page is actually a sinkhole for money, but advertising for TV Guide specials (e.g., celebrity chat sessions) is a way to make the free site become an indirect source of income. If Internet surfers stumble upon the free site, they could be tempted to join the TV Guide club.
The Internet club, the sight that will cost money to join, is an economical way to put the printed version of TV Guide at the disposal of all club members. One sight, that will be updated daily, will host the TV Guide listings as well as articles found in the printer version of the magazine. The advantages of this site are that it will be a cost efficient method to provide services to many users, as well as create revenue by charging a fee to be part of the Internet club. The advantages don’t stop there, even the consumer benefits. They are provided with customized listings, similar to the interactive television version, but on top of that, they also get to participate in chats with television celebrities. The TV Guide Online club is the closest to the printed periodical because it provides consumers with all of the same services, along with services unavailable in the magazine.
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TV Guide On Screen
Concerning TV Guide On Screen, the interactive cable box option is far better than the passive channel. A nominal fee would apply to the box, and after that, there would be a monthly charge, just the same as the passive channel. The passive version would not require any box to set up, but the services provided would be far more limited. The passive channel is surely less attractive than the interactive version.
Offering the interactive version will allow viewers to see customized listings, which simplifies the consumer’s life. Simple conveniences such as TV Guide On Screen are perfect solutions for today’s busy lifestyle. Former TV Guide readers without time to deal with the magazine may find time to set up TV Guide On Screen. The potential market for a television based program listing is immense and must be exploited as soon as possible. Competitors are in the same situation, but they don’t have the same name recognition as TV Guide does. If TV Guide would like a strong hold in the On Screen program listings, then it is necessary that they act now, rather than waiting to compete with other systems. The sooner TV Guide On Screen is marketed, the easier the start up will be.
One question arises about TV Guide On Screen; who will be interested? Those who are avid television watchers will, without a doubt, be interested, but also the average viewer wanting simplified program listings will enjoy the services. To get the TV Guide On Screen name out into the public’s eye, advertising in the printed version of TV Guide, as well in various other periodicals and on television. Through News Corp., TV Guide’s mother company, there are enough connections to get TV Guide On Screen well promoted. Domestically, News Corp. owns several newspapers, magazines and TV stations. Advertising in all three mediums will publicize the new services available via TV Guide.
TV Guide Online
The online industry is only beginning to pick up and it is critical that TV Guide get online. As for which format to use, both the free general listing as well as the club should be marketed. Offering both formats will increase the number of TV Guide users. The free listings site will attract television views and expose them to a small portion of what TV Guide has to offer. The free site, although a sinkhole for money, will serve as an advertising station for the club’s site. Internet users who frequent the free TV Guide site will be tempted into trying the club site, and once they are members, they will want to remain members. Another marketing technique that will gather more paying customers is to offer short-term free trial memberships to TV Guide Online. The quality of TV Guide’s Internet site will be such that after experiencing the online services, nobody would want to discontinue their membership. These marketing strategies will bring in new customers and make TV Guide Online a worthwhile cause.
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The services provided by TV Guide Online’s club site would be greater than anything ever offered in the printed magazine, but the Internet is a new market and getting online customers will, perhaps, be difficult. So, aside from any Internet advertising, I advise advertising TV Guide Online in printed materials and on television, just the same as TV Guide On Screen. The new TV Guide services should be promoted together, giving consumers a choice of which new technology they prefer.
Between the two new forms of TV Guide and the potential advertising through News Corp., TV Guide can expect to maintain its position among the best in providing television programming listings.
* Proceed with the interactive cable box option. Having personalized listings will appeal to customers.
* Scratch the passive channel; there is no market for it. Passive is much less appealing to the consumer and they are less apt to want it.
* Establish a free web site with television listings. Provide the basic service, to attract customers.
Create a TV Guide Club that offers customized listings, in-depth stories, interviews as well as chats with celebrities.
Following these recommendations, it will be possible for TV Guide to remain a household name throughout the nation, as well as allow the company to grow through new mediums. If done quickly enough, TV Guide will not have to worry about competitors, but if they are hesitant to get started on these projects, it will be difficult for TV Guide to remain a leader in television program listings.
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