TV listings magazines in Ireland, Britain and Germany: A critique.

DMC's picture

When I was in Germany recently, I went into a newsagents in Cologne railway station to look at TV magazines. I have been watching continental TV for some time, and I was wondering what the style, content and range of TV listings magazines were.

As you may be aware, a lot of the magazines in this neck of the woods are for a female audience and very effeminate. RTÉ Guide and TV Now, the only separately published listings magazines, are very much driven by soaps and celebrities, and this has been the way for some years. Remember, back in the day, the RTÉ Guide used to have knitting patterns! Horoscopes and recipes, its like picking up Woman’s Way by accident, until you go to the middle and get what’s on TV!

It is much the same in the UK, but with a wider choice of material to choose from, but looking at the covers, its hard to be sure sometimes. What’s On TV, TV Choice, TV Easy, and the ITV bible prior to deregulation TV Times drop into this category. There are two notable exceptions. The Radio Times still has a level of quality about it, apart from now in recent months condensing the daytime listing to smaller fonts. Gone are the days when you used to get a full cast and crew rundown! But in terms of content, interviews, genre guides and, of course, its the most comprehensive radio listings around, its hard to beat, but its not the magazine of old.   The other exception is TV & Satellite Week, a stable mate of TV Times, TV Easy and What’s On TV. This is a magazine that does 9 pages to a day, including an evening planner for the main channels. There is very little filler in this magazine, and it appears to be aimed at the multichannel male. A bloke on a bus could read this, whereas he might get strange looks if he was reading the RTE Guide!

So, back to Germany, where, intriguingly, there appears to be a TV listings magazine for every taste. They do appear to have one common trait. They all have Hollywood or German actresses on their covers. I could only see two magazines that are weekly. Hörzu and TV Hören und Sehen.  Everything else appeared to be fortnightly. Some of the titles are TV Movie, TV Speilfilm, TV Digital and TV Today*. But there clearly is a difference. All of the latter have different editions to suit which type of viewing you have. There are editions for free-to-air, for cable and for Sky (née Premiere). Even TV Movie has an edition priced around €3.50 “mit DVD” ! So whilst the features at the front might be the same, the listings are not.

So coming back to here, isn’t it an idea for the TV mags to introduce separate listings magazines for each platform? Instead of this “Best for Freeview” or “Best for Sky” that appears on some magazines, why not publish a Freeview edition, or Sky edition? Price it accordingly, and people will choose. It’s what they do in Germany, so I can’t see the British or Irish market being any different. And with TV schedules being know well in advance, why not produce a fortnightly magazine?

One final note… I also noticed on that newsstand in Cologne that there is mag called TV Sudoku!

*TV Today is available in some Easons newsagents around the country.