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TV Guide Channel Reinvents Itself

New York -- On the heels of its launch on DirecTV Inc. and a new pact with Mediacom Communications Corp., TV Guide Channel is undergoing a revamp that includes long-form programming, an updated on-air look and two new studios in Hollywood, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. officials announced Tuesday.

Next week, Jan. 26, TV Guide Channel will debut a program schedule that includes a nightly signature show, What’s On, a news-variety program hosted by Lesley Ann Machado, formerly of TBS Superstation’s "The Movie Break."

The new programming and other changes are all part of an effort this year to invigorate and update the network, officials said at a press conference here.

At that event, TV Guide Channel also disclosed that it had reached its first-ever multiyear-carriage agreement with Mediacom and Mediacom Broadband. Leading up to the long-term pact, Mediacom has expanded its carriage of the network by 25% during the past year.

"We are delighted to be launching for the first time on DirecTV and to reach an agreement with Mediacom," Ray Hopkins, executive vice president of TV Guide affiliate sales and marketing, said in a prepared statement.

TV Guide is also launching on multiple Cebridge Connections systems.

The other changes at the network were unveiled just a few days after its DirecTV launch, which brings its distribution to nearly 70 million homes from 58 million.

"It’s really a validation of what we’re doing to the channel," Gemstar-TV Guide CEO Jeff Shell said at the Manhattan press conference, referring to the DirecTV launch.

Shell added that Gemstar’s mandate has been to improve its products, namely TV Guide Channel, its interactive program guide and its TV Guide magazine,which relaunched in the fall.

"This year, it’s a little less sexy what we have to do," Shell said. "Distribution is the key this year."

TV Guide Channel’s main new program offering, What’s On, will air Sunday-Friday at 7 p.m., with updated shows at both 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. The centerpiece of the show is its "What’s Next" segment, which will offer recommendations for viewing for the next hour.

The network’s expansion into long-form programs also includes TV Guide Close-Up, which looks at events in the TV world, and TV Talk, in which celebrities talk about their likes and dislikes about television.

The network will also produce two original, one-hour themed specials per month, on topics like the Golden Globe Awards and the Oscars.

In line with its move into programming, the network has opened two production facilities overlooking Hollywood Boulevard. One is a windowed studio that will serve as the set of What’s On, and the other is an exposed mini-studio that is located directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which is meant as a backdrop for coverage of premieres, TV events and breaking news.

Finally, Los Angeles-based Troika Design Group has created a new brand identity for the network, designing new on-air packaging to update its look.

"It’s a bolder, stronger, much more updated look," said Danila Koverman, senior vice president of programming and production for the TV Guide Television Group.

Shell made the argument that even digital subscribers like video guides. According to research cited by the network, 82% of digital subscribers often decide what to watch by flipping through channels.