TV Guide Publisher: ‘We’re Taking Advantage of Another Golden Age of Television’

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedI’m happy to be back on the Michael’s beat today now that school is back in session (Yippee!) and the cool big kids have returned to the cafeteria. While Fashion Week and the Couture Council luncheon kept the stylistas away, the scene at 55th and Fifth was lively and fun with the usual suspects (Andrew Stein, Chris Meigher) and media mob (Matt Blank, Jack Kliger) holding court in the dining room.

I was very excited about meeting TV Guide Magazine president and publisher Paul Turcotte to talk about how the iconic magazine is “taking advantage of another Golden Age of Television.” Paul arrived with a copy of the latest issue with coverlines about the Fall Sneak Peek and NFL Preview inside. It brought back fond memories for me for more than one reason. Back in the day, it was something of a Friday night ritual in my house to see who would snag the latest issue of the digest-size TV Guide out of the grocery bags when my father came home from the supermarket. It was usually me and I devoured every word and (shades of Frank Constanza!) made note (with a pen!) of when there was something special coming up I wanted to watch. Fast forward a few decades and I landed a gig as a contributing editor at the magazine covering a mixed bag of celebrity interviews, daytime television and the red carpet.

Diane Clehane and Paul Turcotte

When I told Paul about my long history with TV Guide, I mentioned I’d recently been thinking about the oral history of 9/11 I’d done for the magazine with the reporters who covered the biggest story of our time from Ground Zero (Ashley Banfield, Ron Insana, Lester Holt and Ann Curry among many others.) He showed me a story in the new issue by Denis Leary entitled, “How TV Helped America Heal After 9/11.” For the next two hours we talked about the incredible changes that have taken place in television in the last decade and how TV Guide is now uniquely positioned to reach the most passionate viewers in light of the embarrassment of riches in the medium today.

“It’s always been a question of: Does television reflect society or does society reflect television?” said Paul as we settled in for our lunch. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s the quality of writing [on television] was incredible and we’re seeing that again today.” That, he explained, has helped fuel the head-spinning expansion of offerings — currently 480 scripted shows including network, cable and streaming programming and too many unscripted shows to count. All of which is very good news for TV Guide: “There has never been more of a need for guidance on what to watch,” said Paul.

Today with subscriptions up and a total weekly readership of 12 million, things are clearly on the upswing. “We went to back to our roots of ‘what’s worth watching’ and are curating content,” Paul explained. “We recognize the viewing patterns of today with Netflix [and other subscription services]. [Covering] programming goes way beyond networks, day and dates.”

Paul was named president of TV Guide Magazine late last year, having had deep roots in the entertainment biz as publisher of Premiere as well as having been publisher of Men’s Health, Yahoo Internet Life and The Daily Front Row. I asked him why he thought the magazine had teetered on the brink of obsolescence a few years back before its current renaissance. “When they kept trying to be a listing guide and then when the gossip magazines took off and they wanted to play in the celebrity space, they lost their way.”

This is not your fathers — or grandfather’s — TV Guide. Earlier this year, the magazine revealed a sleek new look, new insider-y features and celebrity contributors all designed to help readers discern what’s worth watching on broadcast, cable, premium, streaming and on-demand. “The magazine has evolved” and is dedicated to serving the “intentional watcher” who loves to go deep into their favorite shows, said Paul.