TV Guide Net Fills Out Its Full-Screen Roster

Service Completes Series of Launches, Upgrades
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With rollouts and upgrades from key distributors, TV Guide Network has pushed its carriage penetration with full-screen presence beyond 80%.

The network has increased its commitment to original and acquired programming as it continues to eliminate the listings scroll that appears alongside those shows on-screen.

The transformation from the guide format helped the company score a number of key launches with Comcast, Cox Communications and Verizon Commuications’ FiOS TV over the course of 2012, according to Friday Abernethy, executive vice president of distribution sales and marketing at TV Guide Network.

Heading into 2013, TV Guide Network, which owners Lionsgate and One Equity Partners are said to be shopping, now counts more than 80 million households, with full screens available to 83% of the subscriber base. That’s up from 70% at the end of 2011.

“It’s been a legacy thing in some cases.” Abernethy said, noting the channel had been serving “two masters.” She added: “With all of the interactive guides out there, you would think it would be easy to make that change.”

Abernethy said 2012 marked a big year of affiliate advancement with key Comcast areas. In Seattle, Comcast converted the entire market to full screen, while in the Washington, D.C., Beltway, the nation’s top distributor followed up last year’s conversion to full-screen by launching TV Guide Network HD across the territory. All Comcast customers in greater Boston now view TV Guide Network in full screen. Previously, only 40% of Comcast systems in the No. 7 DMA received the service.

Comcast’s Freedom Region, including the New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia DMAs, completed a nine-month distribution rollout of TV Guide Network that included incremental launches to fill in the remaining 28% of the market, the completion of a full-screen conversion throughout, and the launch of the HD service across the entire region.

From Dec. 6 to 12, Verizon launched TV Guide Network in HD across its entire footprint. “Verizon delivered on the HD front; they’re a big distributor,” Abernethy said.

With a Cox rollout in Santa Barbara, Calif., at the end of last month, TV Guide Network became 100% available to the MSO’s customers, with complete full-screen presentation, up from 53% a year ago.

Earlier this year, Dish launched TV Guide’s expanded video-on-demand offering. All told, since 2009, TV Guide’s VOD usage has grown 365%, according to Abernethy.

On-demand content has morphed away from what she describes as “short, snacky pieces to a platform more complementary to linear.” TV Guide offers 20 hours of VOD per month — with 25% of its content refreshed on a weekly basis.

Abernethy won’t put a percentage on distribution growth prospects for 2013, other than to say TV Guide “hopes to have gains.” She also declined to discuss license fees, but noted the network is a revenue generator for the company. SNL Kagan estimates TV Guide’s monthly sub fee at 3 cents.

The company declined comment on reports that Lionsgate and One Equity are looking to sell the TV Guide Network at an asking price of $350 million.

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