By: Dave Astor and Joe Strupp

Client Papers Fear Loss of Competition

In a move that connects two huge providers of television
listings, Tribune Media Services (TMS) announced today that it
has purchased a majority interest in TVData. Terms of the
agreement were not disclosed.

Together, the two companies have more than 4,000 customers,
including 2,000-plus newspapers as well as online services,
broadcasters, and cable systems. The approximately 500 newspapers
running TMS TV listings include about 70 of the top 100 papers in
the country. TVData will continue to serve customers under the
TVData name.

TMS Director of Marketing Stephen Tippie said the agreement will
help “bring us up to the critical mass” to better compete with
other big players in the entertainment listings industry,
including TV Guide.

Robyn McCormick, TVData vice president of program promotion, said
the news was major, but looked upon it as positive. “It’s a big
change, but it’s exciting,” said McCormick. “I think [the deal]
is a great complement to what I’m doing in selling advertising.
You put the two together, it’s like peanut butter and jelly.”

Did the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have to approve the deal for
possible monopoly implications? Tippie said “no regulatory filings
were required in connection with this transaction because it’s an investment.”
An FTC spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Editors at client newspapers that use both TMS and TVData feared
the loss of competition among the TV listing companies could hurt
service and increase costs.

“It looks like we’re down to one choice,” said Carmen Paone, who
compiles TV listings for the Reading (Pa.) Eagle,
which subscribes to TMS. “We liked it the way it was.”

Steve Pare, advertising manager of The Telegraph in
Nashua, N.H., said he recently switched from TVData to TMS and
liked the choice of competition. “It’s hard to say what it will
mean,” he commented. “I would hope it wouldn’t drive up pricing,
but I’m not sure.”

Rosalie Earle, managing editor of the Sunday Gazette-Mail
in Charleston, W.V., a TVData client, also showed concern. “Now,
if I don’t like the cost, who can I go to?” she said. “It’s
always nice to have somewhere else to go.”

Dave Astor ([email protected]) is a senior editor who covers syndicates and Joe Strupp ([email protected]) is an associate editor for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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