Shell Sees Life In TV Guide Channel


Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. CEO Jeff Shell wants the TV Guide Channel to become the "Headline News" of guide products.

Speaking at the Banc of America Securities LLC media conference here last Wednesday, Shell said he'd like to revamp the channel to provide program information at 15 minutes before the hour. The scrolling guide feature would remain, he said.

"If you get home at a quarter to 8, we should be giving you in 15 minutes what's on at 8 o'clock," Shell said. "Just like Headline News.

"I would have thought that in a digital home, we would lose all of our viewers," Shell added. "But the reality is, we've retained at least one-third of our viewers. Why is that true?

"The research told us the answer is pretty simple — people are lazy and they're tired when the get home from work. There is a segment of the population that just doesn't want to press buttons on their remote."

Gemstar has also made headway concerning agreements for its interactive programming guide with cable operators, said Shell, mainly because it has changed the way it approaches these deals.

The IPG has the potential to be the most valuable and profitable business Gemstar owns, he added.

"My view about the IPG business is that, in many senses, it is like the traditional cable business. If you put a good product out, you use that good product to get distribution under reasonable economic terms," Shell said. "Once you get distribution, other revenues show up, like advertising.

"What we've done in the company is the opposite. We went out with a product that is terrible and we didn't get distribution because we were putting guns to people's heads."

But with two new versions of its interactive guide due in the next two years, Shell believes that will change.

Gemstar plans on a fall launch of its "blue" guide, an IPG product with better content and navigation features, Shell said. By next fall or early 2005, another version of the interactive product — internally called "Ascend" — is due to launch, replete with HDTV and video-on-demand applications.