A year after its relaunch as TV Guide Channel, the onscreen
program guide formerly called Prevue Channel is billing itself as an entertainment portal.
It's also rolling out new original programming and continuing to introduce its revamped
look across the country.
TV Guide Channel, which just underwent a $20 million
upgrade, is now bowing its updated on-screen look and revamped listings to all of its
subscribers. The onscreen guide has enjoyed a ratings uptick, which the company attributes
to the channel's enhanced graphic design and its new national and local original-program
"We are keeping viewers with our pop-culture-icon
look," said Pam McKissick, president and chief operating officer of TV Guide Networks
Inc. "You get sucked in."
That's the goal, she added, as "our desire is for the
channel to be remembered as an entertainment portal for television."
Since late last year, the updated "next
generation" version of the on-screen guide -- which color-codes programming so
viewers can easily distinguish between different genres -- has been rolled out in 20
million of the channel's 53.4 million homes. It recently debuted on Time Warner Cable in
New York City, according to Madeleine Forrer, general manager of TV Guide Channel.
The rollout to all of TV Guide Channel's distribution base
is expected to be completed this spring.
"It really looks like a completely different
channel," Forrer said. "The new look introduces us to the next century."
Apart from the new design for its scrolling listings, TV
Guide Channel is adding more original programming to its lineup. This month, the channel
will introduce Sports Insider segments, which will feature exclusive interviews
with sports celebrities.
The segments, which will kick off with a 2000 NASCAR
stock-car racing preview, will air Monday through Friday at 15 minutes past the hour.
Sports Insider combines elements from two of TV Guide
Channel's popular original segments: Insider, which features behind-the-scenes
interviews with celebrities, and Sportsview, with its sports highlights.
The new sports segment follows this past December's
addition of Music News, an original segment that offers breaking music news and
information in two-minute segments. The host is Katie Wagner.
TV Guide Channel is generally bullish on the impact of its
original programming, which airs on the top portion of the screen as part of a one-hour
wheel format. In fact, 86 percent of the network's audience says they watch to see the
content on the top of the screen, according to McKissick.
All of the onscreen guide's original content is all a
customized extension of the mothership, the TV Guide print magazine.
Apart from its national programming, TV Guide Channel will
continue Around Town, an initiative that allows cable operators to add locally
produced segments to the program guides. In fact, they hope to expand the program, which
has bowed in several markets such as San Diego and will be added in more this year. The
30-second segments air twice an hour.
"Operators are looking for local glue to get the
community tied to them," McKissick said. "We are perfect for that."
Down the road, TV Guide Channel would also like add sports
and family-oriented information to the local-programming segments.
TV Guide Channel boasts that its new look and programming
has boosted its ratings. In January, for example, in primetime the onscreen guide network
posted a 0.55 rating, up 15 percent from the year-ago 0.48, according to Nielsen Media
Research. Total-day ratings up roughly 16 percent, to a 0.29 from a 0.25, Nielsen
Last year, TV Guide Channel's total-day ratings were flat,
at a 0.2, compared with 1998.