As it scales back its core product, is TV Guide looking for a lifeline from SpongeBob?
The entertainment weekly is introducing a special-interest pub devoted to the cartoon character that it says will be one of at least six single-topic SIPs to come in the year ahead.
On sale Oct. 29, the 96-page Ultimate Guide to SpongeBob SquarePants, as the SIP is called, marks the 10th anniversary of the Nickelodeon show. Features include four different covers, free video downloads on iTunes and a sneak peek of a new episode airing Nov. 7. Its planned distribution is 600,000.
SIPs are popular with publishers, because they often command a high newsstand price and rely on little or no advertising at a time when ad pages are scarce. TV Guide’s ad pages fell 26.1 percent to 615 this year through Oct. 26 (the title published six more issues in 2008), per the Mediaweek Monitor.
TV Guide is working on co-sponsorships for upcoming SIPs, but the SpongeBob issue is ad-free, with a $6.99 cover price (versus $3.99 for the regular issue). It follows an SIP devoted to Law & Order that came out earlier this year.
TV Guide has made a series of rate-base cuts to boost profitability under OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that bought it in late 2008. In October, TV Guide slashed the circulation more than 30 percent to 2 million after lowering it in January by 9.4 percent. Its frequency remains at 39 issues a year.