TV Guide Names Debra Birnbaum EIC

TV Guide today (May 6) continued its high-level shakeup, installing executive editor Debra Birnbaum as editor. She succeeds Ian Birch, who was shown the door last week when the title’s sale was completed. Also elevated was Craig Tomashoff, to executive editor, from West Coast bureau chief.

In a company announcement, Birnbaum said she would expand on its breaking news coverage of show and their stars and place more emphasis on editorial opinion in its pages.

The title’s long-term future is up in question, however, as new corporate parent Macrovision Corp., a video technology company, looks to prune the assets it acquired as a result of its deal for Gemstar-TV Guide. The $2.8 billion cash-and-stock deal closed May 2.

Most of Gemstar’s senior management team was let go that day, including CEO Rich Battista and CFO Bedi Singh; earlier in the week, Birch was cut along with several other senior editorial staffers.

Macrovision is expected to sell the magazine, the TV Guide cable channel and the TVG cable horse racing network while keeping Gemstar’s video programming grid technology and TV Guide’s Web site.

Observers said that apart from a financial buyer, they were hard-pressed to come up with potential buyers for a magazine they said has lost relevancy despite its strong brand recognition. The title has lost money for years, although it broke even in the first quarter of ’08, a company spokesperson confirmed.

TV viewers have been turning to the Web and on-screen programming guides for listings, prompting TV Guide to switch to a full-sized from a digest format and slash its rate base by two-thirds to 3.2 million in October 2005. With the relaunch, TV Guide shifted its focus to celebrity coverage, thrusting itself into a crowded field that includes heavyweights People, Us Weekly, Star and In Touch.

While TV Guide’s total circ was flat at 3.3 million in the second half of 2007, newsstand sales fell 16.5 percent to 230,082, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. This year through May 5, ad pages rose 1 percent to 359 year to date, per the Mediaweek Monitor.