Also Reveals Plans for Magazine Launch Early Next Year

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NEW YORK ( -- TV Guide, which despite years of sales declines remains one of the best-selling magazines in America, has named Ian Birch its editor in chief.
Ian Birch, former editorial director of Emap, has been named editor in chief of 'TV Guide.'
He replaces Michael Lafavore, who resigned in late April.

Emap, U.K.
Mr. Birch, 54, had been editorial director at Emap in the U.K., where he oversaw the company's lifestyle titles, which include top-selling celebrity-heavy weeklies Heat -- a template of sorts for Wenner Media's Us Weekly when reinvented by former top editor Bonnie Fuller -- and Closer.

"We like that level of experience," said John Loughlin, president of TV Guide's publishing operations. "It gives us flexibility if we end up developing additional products or launch additional magazines."

Though he denied having a firm timeline

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in hand, Mr. Loughlin said the magazine world would see "something" in terms of a new launch "in the first half of next year." He did not specify if this would be a full-fledged new magazine or merely test issues. Mr. Loughlin said the company had "several magazine concepts under development." One concept, for a more explicit celebrity magazine, had been previously discussed with Mr. Birch.

Celeb-obsessed weeklies
"In the course of a number of conversations it became clear he would be superb" as a top editor, Mr. Loughlin said. "With [Mr. Lafavore's] departure, we shifted the whole nature of the discussions." Despite Mr. Birch's background overseeing celeb-obsessed weeklies, though, Mr. Loughlin was quick to note one thing: "Do we plan to make this a celebrity-driven, more tabloid-esque magazine? The answer is no."

For the first half of the year, TV Guide's newsstand sales fell 24.7%, to 513,910. It's overall circulation fell just 0.1% to 9 million.

Mr. Birch, who will begin in his new position Oct. 18, said that "at the moment, it's a bit premature to talk about the vision" for his TV Guide. Interim top editing duties will continue to be handled by Los Angeles-based executive editor Vince Cosgrove.

Mr. Birch's last stint in the U.S. was at Wenner Media's Us, when that title was still a monthly, from 1990 to 1993. After that, he oversaw British versions of Elle and Elle Decor.

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