When I wrote here about the demise of the TV Guide empire (well, the print edition) earlier this year, I lamented not only the deterioration of the quality to the magazine but also the uselessness of the TV Guide Channel. Why, I asked, did the TV Guide Channel continue to exist when most people use their cable company’s scrolling programming grids to see what’s on all those myriad channels you seldom watch, yet pay good money to have? The same could be said for most of the programming on TV Guide Channel that consisted mostly of American Idol recaps and other entertainment roundups that were pretty much can-miss. And let’s not forget when Joan and Melissa Rivers were banished to this channel to do their irritating red carpet pre-award show segments.
It’s no wonder then that Macrovision, the company that’s owned TV Guide Channel, the print edition and TVGuide.com since the 90’s, is selling out to other corporate entities. They’ve already sold the magazine to another company. But for the sale of TV Guide Channel, it seems like they’re offloading a used vehicle that was already a lemon. Apparently some companies disagreed and longtime television producer Allen Shapiro (along with One Equity Partners) saw some kind of hope for TV Guide Channel.
Added in the deal is the one bright spot in the crumbling of the TV Guide Empire: the above-mentioned TVGuide.com. You’ll occasionally see articles here on Associated Content reviewing how useful TVGuide.com is and how convenient it is compared to sitting through a TV scroll or perusing the confusing listings in the magazine. As with just about every other magazine or newspaper, people are finding out that going online is where you can get more accurate information as well as better interactivity.
When I first went on TVGuide.com earlier this last fall after ending a decades-long family subscription to the magazine, I discovered the true answer to finding not only accurate programming listings, but also getting back to local listings based on your cable system that you can select at the top of the programming grid. In order to cut costs, the magazine did away with local listings in 2005 so anything shown on your local affiliates (or PBS listings) doesn’t reflect the right show on in your area. With the internet, you can be sure everything is up to the second and sometimes besting those painfully slow cable programming scrolls that are usually prepared long in advance.
TVGuide.com isn’t much different from the current configuration of the magazine with features about certain shows and stars. Even when you place your cursor over a particular program on the grid, you’ll get an info box you can click on that’ll tell you when the show will repeat throughout the next two weeks. Yes, I was one of those TV Guide fans who always looked ahead to the end of the week in the magazine to see what was coming up. On TVGuide.com, you can look ahead two weeks.
With all those useful features in the TV Guide cyber universe, plus more, it’s a miracle the print edition is still surviving. It’s also a miracle that TV Guide Channel is still considered a viable business venture through the above-mentioned buyers. But the word is that Shapiro and One Equity Partners will remove the programming grid from TV Guide at some point in the coming year. Once that happens, it’ll merely be a compendium of shows about TV.
And that might just cause more confusion and removal of viewers when you’ll find plenty of other cable channels that provide the same kind of entertainment coverage…
Perhaps the TV Guide Channel buyers overlooked longstanding channels like E! or syndicated entertainment shows across the dial that cover television up and down. Most of them still are better than anything TV Guide Channel has mustered in the last decade. When you see the statistic in the source link that TV Guide Channel barely registers on the Nielsen charts each night, you have to wonder what the buyers have in mind to revamp a seemingly dead channel. Unless they get some shows with appealing hosts (not necessarily Joan and Melissa Rivers in the channel’s talent pool) to host various entertainment shows, there won’t be any point for anybody to tune into the channel.
If they listened to me, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend folding TV Guide Channel and focus exclusively on improving the excellence of TVGuide.com. Yes, I have too much of an emotional attachment to the magazine to say fold it–even though it’s virtually artless now and looks like a rag on the newsstands.
Ah, the word artless. That article I mentioned in the beginning where I lamented the fall of the TV Guide Empire mostly focused on the major components missing from TV Guide: The great writers, photographers and layout artists who used to make each print issue of TV Guide a master work of art up until about the 80’s or 90’s. When all that went away (obviously to cut costs), there was nothing left to distinguish it from any other TV listings source out there. The best thing to do is to consolidate at this point and consider the future of TV Guide as being online, as is the fate of just about every other media entity of late.
Once the success of TVGuide.com takes over, perhaps the TV Guide Empire would truly be an empire again that would incite the hiring of some high-quality writers and photographers to bring back the artistic design the old print issues once had. That sense of higher artistic standard can work just as well online as it can in a print issue. In fact, with the interactivity, it can potentially be better.
Instead, I expect TV Guide to keep their fingers in too many pies that won’t succeed and ultimately lose money. If TV Guide Channel and the magazine continue to limp along, then TVGuide.com may not get the attention to expand as it deserves. Even so, and in the meantime, TVGuide.com is highly recommended to give you everything you need to see what’s on your cable system–sans artistic pictorials/layouts and editorials by writers who have real talent…