EXCLUSIVE: Mike Mahan will be leaving his post as President of TV Guide, the company that encompasses the TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com. Mahan will make the transition in the coming month, with Dennis Miller, strategic adviser of TV Guide co-owner Lionsgate Entertainment, stepping in as interim president as the network and the website continue to mull a potential sale. Mahan just made the announcement in an internal email, which you can read below the post.
In one of Mahan’s last major initiatives at the company, he is shepherding a name change of the TV Guide Network to TVGN, which, along with a new logo, will be introduced at the end of March. The new name eliminates the Guide reference in the network’s moniker, underlying its transition from a TV listings utility to a full-screen programming cable network. Other cable networks that have switched to abbreviations as their programming direction had evolved from what their original names stood for include AMC, GSN and TLC.
I hear that several months ago Mahan informed the TV Guide parent companies of his decision to step down from his full-time management position in order to pursue other opportunities. He was offered to stick around in another capacity and will now join the company board. In addition to that, I hear Mahan is eyeing another high-level TV executive position. No one would comment, but a top post at Dick Clark Productions seems logical as it would reunite Mahan with longtime business partner Allen Shapiro, who became chairman of Dick Clark Prods following the company’s recent acquisition by Guggenheim Partners, Mandalay Entertainment and Shapiro’s Mosaic Media Investment Partners.
Mahan joined TV Guide in May 2009 following the $123 million acquisition of 49% of the company by Shapiro and JPMorgan Chase’s One Equity Partners when Shapiro became chairman of the joint venture. Mahan became president, running day-to-day operations, in 2010, after the departure of previous president Ryan O’Hara.
During his tenure, Mahan focused on transforming the TV Guide Network from a scroll of TV listings to a full-screen entertainment destination. When he took over, only 1/3 of TV Guide Network’s 80 million homes carried the network in full screen, without the guide. Now that share is at more than 83% and is expected to cross the 90% mark within the next year. Even as the guide’s role diminishes (it provided 2/3 of the network’s ratings vs. 12% now), TV Guide Network has been able to keep ratings steady. Its all-day average 2012 viewership, 240,000, was on par with 2011. (Its household rating was down 11%).
Mahan also moved the network away from its dependance on infomercials and, with the gradual phasing out of the listings, its ad time has gone down from 18.5 min to 13 min an hour, in line with a traditional cable network. While that understandably has led to a decline in the network’s ad revenue, the company’s goal has been creating base to build programming on, not so much maximizing cash flow. (Among the originals TVGN has added over the past couple of years are Nail Files and Wilson Phillips: Still Holding On.) Making the network stronger is important as the TV Guide Network has been constantly fielding potential suitors, with CBS and Discovery Communications among those rumored over the past year. I hear talks with potential buyers are currently underway. Depending on their outcome, TV Guide parents would either sell the company or proceed with hiring a new president to run the network as it continues its building process. I hear Lionsgate and One Equity Partners have already retained a head hunting firm to search for a potential new top executive. TV Guide’s online division, TVGuide.com, continues to grow, rising to 25 million monthly unique users online and through syndication.
In addition to his gig at TV Guide, Mahan and Shapiro, who first worked together at Dick Clark Prods. before the company’s sale to Red Zone Capitol in 2007, partnered in July 2012 to purchase Direct Holdings LLC, owner and operator of Time Life’s infomercial business, from Readers Digest. Here is Mahan’s email:
I’m writing to let you know that within the next month, I will transition my responsibilities as President of TV Guide and will pass the baton to an interim President, Dennis Miller, who currently serves as an advisor to Lionsgate and has been integrally involved with TV Guide as a consultant for several months. Although I will not be running the business day-to-day, I will remain closely affiliated with TV Guide in the future and will be actively involved with the company as a member of TV Guide’s Board of Directors.
As most of you know, I joined TV Guide with One Equity Partners’ investment in May 2009. Since that time, I have been very proud to have worked amongst such a talented team of people and to have served as the company’s President during a period of significant change and transition for both the network and digital businesses. Each and every one of you has played a significant part of building and strengthening our company, and you should all be very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far.
TV Guide Network—soon to be TVGN—has successfully transformed into a full-screen entertainment network. In just three short years, we have accomplished what the skeptics said would never happen. We have taken our full-screen carriage from just 35% to 83% of our total distribution and we have 80 million households, second only to Hallmark Channel amongst the independent channels. On the programming side, our ratings are no longer driven by usage of TV listings and guidance utility, as just 12% of our ratings come from analog distribution (the scroll), down from 67% of our ratings in 2009. Since January of 2009, our satellite ratings are up 195% in primetime. The reason satellite ratings are important is that satellite has been the constant full-screen environment since 2007 and therefore an effective barometer to measure and evaluate interest in TVGN programming. Our length of tune is up 109% since 2009, another indicator that viewers are tuning in longer to our programming in a “scroll free” environment.
Given this dramatic shift in how viewers are now watching our network, we are in prime position to execute on our programming plans and strategy. We’ve already established a solid foundation with our original series and specials, which are starting to gain some momentum. Over the past year, we successfully launched several new and returning originals in which you all had a hand in—from production and programming to research and scheduling to sales, marketing and publicity to legal and finance. The team is working on some new great shows for 2013, and investment in TVGN and the network’s programming will continue strong in the coming year.
TV Guide Digital has also achieved immeasurable success in an industry that is fiercely competitive and rapidly changing. TVGuide.com, which attracts 25 million unique monthly visitors, has reinvented the TV Guide brand online to a whole new generation of users. Our ground-breaking “Watchlist” has become the definitive TV Guide of the digital age and personalizes entertainment discovery like no other product on the market. And, our new TV Guide app already boasts 8.5 million customers, positioning TV Guide as an undisputed force in mobile.
As you can see, there has been an enormous amount of progress made, and I know that it has taken immense dedication and perseverance to get where we are today. We have successfully converted the network from a utility to a true entertainment destination with programming, and we have transformed the TV Guide brand on digital platforms with praise from the industry critics and widespread adoption from users. I’d like to personally thank you for your contributions. I am truly grateful to have been part of the leadership team at TV Guide, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to the Company’s future in a new capacity.
I will make an announcement regarding my own future plans in the upcoming weeks. I wish you all the best in 2013, and I know that each of you will continue to make TVGN and TV Guide Digital extraordinarily successful.