ABC SPECIAL: Niche soap titles hold their own (Television)

Soap titles flourished in this set of ABCs, against the backdrop of recession and an increasing number of free alternatives.

IPC's Soaplife, up 7.7% year on year
IPC's Soaplife, up 7.7% year on year

Radio Times, BBC Worldwide's heritage title, fell below one million readers for the first time, registering a 4.3% drop year on year. This is a challenge for incoming editor Ben Preston when he joins the magazine from The Independent newspaper in September.

Kathy Day, Radio Times' publishing director, believes the TV weekly will have to push its case harder as a premium product that justifies its £1.10 cover charge if it is to win those readers back.

Meanwhile, there were mixed fortunes for H Bauer. TV Choice kept its place as the biggest-selling paid-for magazine in the sector, despite a 4.2% fall year on year to 1,335,894.

However, TV Quick suffered the biggest drop of all the titles in the sector, with a 22.5% year-on-year decline - results that coincide with significant changes to make the product a clearer mid-market title.

As a sign of the times, IPC's main titles in the sector - TV Times, TV Easy and TV & Satellite Week - all suffered year-on-year circulation declines.

Dominic Williams, press director at Carat, believes this is a consequence of an increasingly overcrowded market.  

He says: "Too many weekly newspaper supplements have an indistinguishable offering. For a market that's shrinking, weekly TV listings titles feel desperately oversupplied, and publishers now face the challenge of tailoring their offering appropriately."

Indeed, the most optimistic results were among the niche soap titles, pointing to an audience happier to stay in.

The smaller soap titles bucked the overall decline of the sector, with IPC's Soaplife reporting a 7.7% year-on-year rise, and All About Soap rising 1.9% year on year to 107,162.

MPG's head of press Alan Brydon agrees: "The titles that have done well in the TV market tend to be in areas that are not oversupplied."

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