IPC to expand guide offerings

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In the U.K., the world of television can follow you everywhere.

IPC Media, the U.K.'s leading publisher of weekly TV listings magazines, is developing an entertainment brand that offers prospective viewers information, ranging from program times to industry news and gossip, however and wherever they want to receive it-magazines, Web sites, phones, PDAs, digital TV and more.

The publisher launched the Unmissable TV brand first as a Web site (unmissabletv.com) in December 1999 and has been adding platforms since, Sly Bailey, chief executive of IPC Media, told FIPP attendees.

"The Web site was only ever stage one in the strategy," she said. "Our objective has always been for Unmissable TV to be a multiplatform entertainment guide, accessible not just via the Internet but also via mobile phones, Palm Pilots and interactive TV." Listings, she said, are searchable by time, day, channel, TV region and by genre.

Last year, IPC signed deals with service providers for cell phones and PDA devices. In December, IPC teamed up with U.K. cable company NTL to make a TV-based version of Unmissable TV available to NTL's digital cable subscribers, who number only about 500,000, but are projected to exceed 4 million in the next two years. The site averages just under 4 million page impressions per month, Ms. Bailey said.

"Our view is that if an online brand isn't breaking even in year three, then we have to question why we are doing it at all," she said. With IPC Media facing either a sale or a stock market flotation within the next year to repay the venture capital firm Cinven that backed a $1.3 billion management buyout in 1998, the U.K. publisher is under pressure to make money quickly.

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