The 40-year-old Mr. Steward "will be a major part of really repositioning this brand," said Anthea Disney, chairman-CEO of News Corp.'s News America Publishing Group. "One problem with a brand that has been around a long time is that if it isn't tended, it can become generic. We need to reposition [TV Guide] in the minds of consumers so that it is more dynamic and part of what they consider when they make home viewing choices."
LEARNING THE BUSINESS
The former chief operating officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia starts in his new role at the 13 million-circulation weekly today, and said his first priority will be to learn the operation.
"My job is to really make sure TV Guide is all that it can become," he said. "First I need to make sure the base business is as finely tuned as it can be, and then see what improvements can be made."
"The TV Guide logo has great brand recognition and that's what I want to build from," Mr. Steward added.
NEW DISTRIBUTION METHODS
A brand-building approach includes looking at new ways of distributing TV Guide's information.
"We want to deliver our information however people want it," Mr. Steward explained. "We already have a fine Web site that we can continue to build. And I believe some kind of electronic guide [on TV] is definitely in the future and part of what we have to own. We should be in every distribution channel we can be, if we can make money at it."
Mr. Steward noted that "one thing I learned at Martha Stewart was that you want to be there for the consumer wherever they want to find you. You don't want to force them to go where they don't want to be."
Brand extensions he's envisioning include a weekly TV show, and other magazines similar in concept to Soap Opera Digest.
Mr. Steward was an integral part of the launch team of Martha Stewart Living, which became profitable in five years. He was promoted from general manager to exec VP in 1995 and became chief operating officer after he helped steer the successful buyout from Time Warner earlier this year.
Under his financial management, Martha Stewart Living's circulation grew from 725,000 to its current 2.3 million, and the brand was expanded into a six-day-a-week TV program, a Web site, a syndicated radio talk show and a syndicated newspaper column.
Before joining the Martha Stewart enterprise, Mr. Steward was business development director for Time Inc.'s People, managing franchise development and special issues.
TV Guide is up 9.7% in ad pages for January through September, to 2,452. Total circulation is up 0.7%. But single-copy sales are down 17.7%, to 3.5 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Mr. Steward attributes that to