So what's on telly tonight?
The ubiquity of television listings makes dedicated TV magazines even more important. Kevin Whitlock rates them
Monday 26 September 2005
Sky The Magazine
John Brown Citrus Publishing. Circulation 6,738,581
Mailed out free to every Sky subscriber, this title is Britain's biggest-circulation magazine. However, wags claim that's also the least read. The listings are skeletal and the rather bland features have the whiff of agency copy. Very little in the mag makes you think: "I must watch that." I suspect that this is not entirely down to the editorial team. Simon Geller, the recently appointed editor, has a deft touch, and he'll need it to make something out of a pig's ear. 2/10
What's On TV
IPC tx. Circulation 1,673,790. £0.40
The UK's best-selling news-stand magazine claims to be "bright, friendly and great value, [with] a no-nonsense, entertaining attitude to TV", and it's difficult to argue with that. The listings (six pages per day), while not particularly detailed, are easy to use and the features and previews are snappy, well written and perfect for the target audience. For busy young mums, WoTV makes the business of choosing something to watch straightforward. 8/10
H Bauer Publishing. Circulation 1,157,622. £0.30
The fastest-growing title in the market, TV Choice was launched in 1999 as an easy-to-use alternative to newspaper freebies. At just 30p, it represents excellent value - it's meatier and better designed than the tabloid supplements. Six pages of clear and comprehensive (if not especially detailed) listings per day, along with puzzles, letters, horoscopes soap news and previews, and a film guide. Pity there are no radio listings. 8/10
BBC Magazines. Circulation 1,080,199. £0.95
RT, the most upmarket title here, has come a long way since its duopoly days. Editor Gill Hudson has really stretched the format. This is the only title to boast big-name writers. TV editor Alison Graham's pieces are trenchant and Andrew Duncan's interviews incisive. Each day is given eight pages (including a whole page of previews) of clear and detailed listings, while the radio coverage is the best anywhere. The best of the bunch by some way. 10/10
Emap Elan. Circulation 560,438. £1.55
Not strictly a TV listings title, but the listings must have surely played a part in this magazine's success. They're concise, witty, quirky and display a real feel for and delight in popular culture. Expect to see BBC4 films on Schoenberg get short - if any - shrift, while the likes of Big Brother receive blanket coverage. The listings are OK but what really makes them stand out is the humorous tone (love those captions!) and sometimes cruel photos. 9/10
IPC tx. Circulation 418,192. £0.85
TV Times aims to bring its readers "right into the heart of British TV" with specially commissioned photos, features, interviews and the like. It doesn't always manage this, but when the mix is right it recalls the magazine's glory days of the 1960s and 70s. Like Radio Times, TVT seems to be on a roll, and has features that are genuinely worth reading. The film guide is excellent, and it begins each day with a page of critical previews. Radio coverage is OK too. 8/10
IPC tx. Circulation 340,018. £0.35
The newest title on the market, launched in May as "the first compact paid-for". But the format doesn't work for this type of magazine: the listings (12 pages per day, less impressive than it sounds) are far from comprehensive and the type seems tiny. TV Easy claims to be "your handy quick-flick TV guide", but reading it is another thing. There are good points - colour-coded days and daily planners - but it's difficult to discern what or whom it's for. 4/10
H Bauer Publishing. Circulation 313,454. £0.65
"It's a women's magazine, a celebrity TV magazine and a listings magazine all in one," runs Bauer's blurb on TV Quick. True enough, but other titles do this sort of thing with more zest. What it's really got going for it is a crisp, clean design. The lack of radio listings is a minus, but this is cancelled out by a pretty comprehensive film guide, the Soapzone section and some decent features. The only big-name writer is chatshow host Trisha Goddard. 7/10
TV & Satellite Week
IPC tx. Circulation 222,737. £0.95
With more than 100 channels listed, TVSW can lay claim to be the most comprehensive listings mag on the market. Every day gets 10 pages, so this really is the title to have for the hardcore Sky or cable subscriber. Sports coverage is excellent, the listings clear and the film coverage first rate. And for a multichannel magazine, the terrestrial TV coverage is surprisingly detailed. The only thing that lets it down is wobbly design and no radio coverage. 8/10
Hachette Filipacchi UK. Circulation 182,618. £1.20
Since upping its frequency to a weekly, Hachette's soap bible has gone from strength to strength. Every soap and demi-soap is covered in microscopic detail, and there are plenty of insider scoops. The "What happens when" guide is great fun too. Two terrestrial pages per day, with the emphasis heavily, although not entirely, on soaps. Rather scrawny digital listings are shunted off to the back, but aside from that, it's difficult to fault. 8/10
Total TV Guide
H Bauer Publishing. Circulation 93,137. £0.95
Radio Times apart, TTVG has the best radio listings in the market. It devotes nine pages per day to 90+ TV stations: listings are excellent. Given the amount of detail, the pages are clean and uncluttered - for the novice digital viewer, this has to be the mag of choice. What's wrong with it? There's very little apart from the listings. The film guide and the sports planner are both great, but the sketchy previews have a bit of a "so what?" quality. 7/10
IPC tx. Circulation 90,672. £1.30
This fortnightly title is something of an oddity: it gives seven pages for two weeks' worth of soap storylines, one soap per page. Then there are four pages devoted to previews of dramas and light entertainment/comedy shows - which seem a bit pointless, as dates but no times are given. Despite this, there are great pictures, star interviews and plot previews to keep addicts happy. This is a title to buy in addition to mainstream mags. 6/10
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