KCET to Drop Magazine; Low Ad Sales Cited

KCET Channel 28 and Knapp Communications confirmed Wednesday that KCET Magazine, the station's 21-month-old monthly program guide, will cease to exist in its current form at the end of this year.

Officials at the public-television station and at Knapp said the two companies are working together on a less sophisticated program guide that will replace the magazine next January.

"The magazine was not as strong a commercial venture as expected," said Joy Sabol, spokeswoman for Knapp.

Knapp, which also publishes Architectural Digest and Bon Appetit, had hoped to recoup its investment in the magazine through ad sales. But that wasn't happening--the current 48-page issue contains only about seven pages' worth of ads--and Knapp was losing money on every issue, Sabol said.

KCET pitched in 25 cents per subscriber each month--nearly $900,000 a year--but that and the meager ad revenues, according to Sabol, were not enough to cover Knapp's costs. The magazine is circulated to about 295,000 KCET subscribers who donate at least $40 a year to the station.

The magazine's demise came just one day after the station acknowledged that it had canceled a gala event it had planned to stage at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 28 to celebrate KCET's 25th anniversary. Ironically, the event is touted in a full-page ad on the inside cover of this month's edition of KCET Magazine.

"KCET Magazine is too expensive for Knapp to publish for us," KCET spokeswoman Barbara Goen said Wednesday. "They have presented us with several options, and we are in the process of evaluating our options. We will do a program guide of some form."

Goen said that Knapp has suggested publications of "lesser sophistication" than the current magazine and that the station would decide what direction to go in by the end of this month.

She said KCET officials had not yet determined whether they will have to invest more in this new venture than they have in the past.

KCET Magazine contains listings of KCET's program schedule and an assortment of articles about upcoming programs and more general subjects such as travel, dining and the arts. It was launched in January, 1988, to replace Dial, public television's program guide that was distributed and produced by public TV stations in 12 cities. Dial, which was also advertiser-supported, also became too expensive for the stations to produce.

For a short time last year, KCET Magazine was sold for $1.50 a copy at newsstands, but that experiment failed to increase circulation or advertising revenue significantly.

The demise of another public-television program guide raises the question of why KCET needs to invest money in its own publication when its programs are routinely listed in TV Guide and local newspapers. Wouldn't such monies be better invested in programming?

"That's a good question," Goen said. "But our research and focus-group studies and conversations with our subscribers have given us the impression that our subscribers want a communication device from KCET. We believe it enhances their feelings and their connection with KCET."

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