TV Guide Inc. plans to introduce a new print magazine this
summer called Ultimate Cable, designed to help operators increase consumer demand
for more robust video-programming packages, especially digital cable.
The company also plans to unveil several upgrades to its
electronic program guides at the National Show next week in Chicago.
The Ultimate Cable weekly is earmarked to launch in
its first markets as early as this month, TV Guide president Joe Kiener said.
In addition to newsstand distribution, the company will
make the publication available through co-branded relationships with MSO affiliates, and
through subscriptions sent directly to consumers where no such affiliations exist.
"We believe the magazine, through the familiarity of
its brand, will be able to reach a mass audience," Kiener said. "Cable will need
to reach this audience in order to expand digital."
Some cable operators already partner with TV Guide to offer
their subscribers a monthly Cable Guide or a weekly blown-up version of the TV
Guide weekly digest-sized book. TV Guide will attempt to switch many of its operators
over to the new Ultimate Cable magazine.
Kiener said Ultimate Cable plans to garner close to
1.5 million subscribers within its first year. It will bring a circulation of 900,000 from
its current large-format TV Guide today.
The editorial content of Ultimate Cable will be
focused to a more affluent and cable-oriented audience, with more feature stories devoted
to cable shows, and not just favorite broadcast picks.
Programming grids will accommodate up to 150 channels,
including pay-per-view lineups tailored to a particular digital-cable operator.
"We position the product to high-intensity users of
multichannel," Kiener said, "people who grew up with cable and those with more
propensity to buy pay-per-view and premium."
Operators can use Ultimate Cable as a marketing tool
not just for current digital-cable customers, but for all of their customers, Kiener said.
The same holds true for TV Guide's electronic products,
according to TV Guide Networks president and chief operating officer Pam McKissick.
Even the analog on-screen TV Guide Channel, which is seen
in 54.1 million households, can scroll a list of digital channels that can be used to
upsell analog customers to digital, McKissick said. Since scrolling the additional digital
channels, some systems have seen a 400 percent increase in digital upgrades, she added.
TV Guide's Interactive Channel offers two-way
interactivity, allowing a viewer to click through directly to a program called up on the
Over the summer, TV Guide plans to offer on-screen panel
ads -- perhaps promoting a big movie on a premium network -- that would allow the viewer
to click on the ad to learn more about the show.
In the future, TV Guide may upgrade its interactive
on-screen guides to include movie trailers on-demand or the ability to order a PPV movie
as a gift and e-mail it to a family member across the country.
"The wonderful thing about digital is that we can
download the new features to the box overnight," McKissick said.