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TV Guide Magazine is sold for the third time in less than 10 years to NTVB Media

TV Guide Magazine is sold for the third time in less than 10 years to NTVB Media
Regis Philbin signs a large poster copy of his TV Guide cover in which he is dressed as Major Nelson from "I Dream of Jeannie." (Gregory Pace / FilmMagic)

TV Guide Magazine, once the unrivaled bible for television fans and a powerhouse in the publishing business, has been sold for the third time in less than 10 years.

NTVB Media, the Troy, Mich., publisher of the TV listings books Channel Guide and TV Weekly, will announce Wednesday that it has acquired the magazine from private equity firm OpenGate Capital of Beverly Hills. The price was not disclosed.

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"It was much more than a dollar," said NTVB Media Chief Executive Andy DeAngelis, referring to the sale price the last time the magazine changed hands.

The 62-year-old TV Guide is far from its glory days as the top revenue-generating title in the magazine business and the leading source for program information. But its current paid circulation of 1.8 million copies is still among the highest celebrity-entertainment publications in the nation, behind Time Inc.'s People.

NTVB already has TV Weekly, which carries local television listings and is mostly distributed through Sunday newspapers across the country. The company also has several channel guides that are custom published for cable and satellite services, which provide them to their subscribers.

DeAngelis said the ad pages in TV Guide Magazine will be sold in a package with its other titles, giving advertisers the opportunity to reach 3 million subscribers.

TV Guide Magazine's editorial staff will remain based in New York and Los Angeles, and continue its focus on fan-centric programming coverage in addition to providing listings. The magazine's staff will also collaborate with the staffs at NTVB's other titles.

"We see this as a very powerful combination," DeAngelis said.

The deal is a lifeline for TV Guide, which has struggled to maintain its relevancy in the changing media landscape.

OpenGate acquired TV Guide in 2008 from the technology company Macrovision, now known as Rovi. OpenGate bought the magazine for $1 and received a $9.5-million loan at a low interest rate from Macrovision, which acquired the publication's parent company Gemstar-TV Guide International in 2007.

NTVB's purchase does not include the website TVGuide.com, which is owned by CBS Corp.'s interactive unit. NTVB will have the right to use the TV Guide name only in print.

TV Guide Magazine launched its own website called TVInsider this year. But that site, which will continue under NTVB, is prohibited from using the magazine's highly recognizable red-and-white TV Guide logo.

TV Guide first launched in 1953 and became a huge success as television grew into the country's top leisure activity. In 1988, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought TV Guide's parent company, Triangle Publications, for $3 billion, a record at the time in the magazine business.

But the title's clout and revenue diminished over the last dozen years as program information became readily available on the Web and on-screen listings provided by cable and satellite systems. At the time of its last sale in 2008, TV Guide Magazine was reportedly losing $20 million a year.

The title is said to have returned to profitability under OpenGate's stewardship, achieved almost entirely through cost reductions. OpenGate, which gained attention recently with its sudden shutdown of Brea-based PennySaver, made significant cuts in TV Guide's staffing and slashed its weekly frequency to 29 issues per year.

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Even with the downsizing, the magazine's covers are still desirable real estate for networks looking to publicize their shows.

David Fishman, who will stay on as CEO of TV Guide Magazine, said one of the plans under new ownership is to expand the publication of special newsstand issues that celebrate well-known shows and fan events such as Comic-Con.

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