TV Guide is a towering magazine brand, but has declined as a magazine. Macrovision acquired the title when it bought Gemstar-TV Guide for its digital assets last January. In a lengthy statement to the press when it announced the Gemstar deal, Macrovision did not mention the magazine. The company put cable's TV Guide Channel on the block separately at the end of last month.
"A primary goal of the Gemstar-TV Guide acquisition was the consolidation of key technology assets, including the interactive program guides, connected services and device connectivity needed to provide consumers with a uniquely simple digital home entertainment experience," Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso said in a statement. "The TV Guide divestiture marks a significant milestone towards achieving this goal as the streamlined business model improves the company's ability to execute its strategic plan," he added.
Many had doubts
Many people in the magazine industry had started doubting that Macrovision would find a buyer for TV Guide magazine, given the difficult year for weekly magazines and the current global financial alarm.
The property itself has also looked a little challenged. It lost some $20 million in 2007 as it absorbed the costs of its transformation from a digest format to a smaller-circulation, larger-size entertainment magazine.
Ad pages at TV Guide from January through its Oct. 6 issue declined 9%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Newsstand sales fell 29% in the first half as paid subscriptions slipped 0.5%, according to its report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The title got an overhaul last June under Debra Birnbaum, the celebrity weekly vet installed by Macrovision.
Investment on the way
Scott Crystal, president of TV Guide magazine, defended the title, pointing out that ad pages are down across most of the industry -- particularly weeklies. "The other weekly of general entertainment, Entertainment Weekly, is down almost 17% in ad pages," he said. "The fact that we're down about 9% with two fewer issues says a lot about our ability to sustain a great performance in the ad markets."
The decline in newsstand sales reflects cover price hikes, Mr. Crystal added, noting that newsstand represents a small slice of the magazine's overall paid circulation. "We have about 3 million subscribers to the magazine," he said. "That, with phenomenal renewal rates, were some of the fundamentals that attracted OpenGate."
"The reason we acquired this business is simple," said Andrew Nikou, founder and managing partner at OpenGate. "It needed additional investment. We're investing in this company to take it to the next stage."
Mr. Nikou declined to discuss how the magazine will work with its separately-owned web site, what areas will receive new investment or whether staff levels will fall or rise. "Plans and all that stuff are not going to be discussed until Dec. 1," he said.
OpenGate Capital's portfolio comprises companies specializing in fields such as wireless infrastructure, networking, payment cards and information-technology consulting.