Less than a year after regular television broadcasting began in September 1956, Australia had its own dedicated television program guide. Television Preview, produced by the Television Owners Club of Australia, was launched in 1957.
In Melbourne, Southdown Press, the magazine arm of News Limited, established TV-Radio Week in December 1957 as a counter to Listener In-TV. The long-running weekly broadsheet radio magazine published by the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) had recently changed its title and begun to incorporate television articles and programs. As the HWT controlled HSV7, the rival GTV9 decided to collaborate with Southdown to produce TV-Radio Week in order to provide publicity for its programs.
In June 1958, the ABC launched TV News as a counterpart to the ABC Weekly. A little over a fortnight later, Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) launched its own guide, TV Times. TV Week, as Southdown’s magazine was now known, added a Sydney edition in July. Four competing weekly magazines—Television Preview, TV News, TV Times and TV Week—were unsustainable. ACP entered into a co-publishing deal with the ABC, which saw their respective magazines merged to become TV News-Times (soon simplified to TV Times). By the end of the year, Television Preview had been incorporated into TV Week, and the stage was set for a rivalry that would last for the next two decades.
TV Week introduced a viewer-voted award in 1958, with the first recipients being In Melbourne Tonight hosts Graham Kennedy and Panda Lisner. Kennedy was given the honour of naming the awards, which he christened the ‘Logies’ (after John Logie Baird). TV Times would later create a rival award, the ‘Sammies’.
TV Times entered the Melbourne market in August 1959, with both it and TV Week subsequently being published in each state as broadcasting began there. By 1961, there were editions covering every capital city except Hobart, which received Melbourne editions plus a local supplement. In 1960, TV-Radio Tonight, which morphed into TV Guide, was launched in South Australia, where it maintained a circulation healthy enough to rival its two national competitors.
Initially, TV Week and TV Times were largely equal, the primary difference being in their format. Editorially, TV Times was arguably more informative, and notably gave far more space—including featured covers—to ABC programs than its rival. Stylistically, TV Week soon began to edge ahead, adding matte colour internal pages in 1962. TV Times seemingly did little to keep up; when TV Week moved to a larger format (matching that of TV Times) in July 1968, it immediately looked superior to its rival, featuring glossy colour pages and a cleaner layout. Even when it became a full-colour publication, the quality of TV Times was inferior to that of TV Week. By 1971, TV Week could boast a national weekly circulation of 400,000.
An attempt to launch a Melbourne edition of South Australia’s TV Guide in 1973 lasted little more than four months, with TV Week and TV Times effectively splitting the market for the remainder of the 1970s. TV Guide became TV-Radio Extra in August 1980.
In 1979, Family Circle Publications introduced a local version of its American Family TV Guide. The following year, the ABC elected to end its agreement with ACP, which purchased the ABC’s interest and entered into a partnership with News Limited, with TV Times immediately being incorporated into TV Week. ACP and News Limited were equal partners in the joint venture. Family Circle soon sold the national TV Guide to ACP, and it too was incorporated into TV Week, which effectively had the national market to itself from that point on. In May 1980, ACP’s Australian Women’s Weekly began including a free television magazine as part of its publication. Family Circle followed suit in August 1980, and Woman’s Day introduced its own publication in 1981.
Another attempt to float a national television magazine was made in 1984, when the Federal Publishing Company’s tabloid celebrity gossip magazine Star Enquirer was restyled to become TV Star, running until 1985. In Melbourne, the only stand-alone rival was the venerable Listener In-TV (now titled TV Scene), with circulation hovering around 60,000. However, after the News Limited takeover of the HWT in 1987, TV Scene was moved to Southdown Press under the cross-media ownership laws, and duly closed. TV Week’s circulation at this time was approximately 800,000, down from a mid-1980s peak of 850,000.
Following a sharp decline in sales, Adelaide’s TV-Radio Extra was discontinued in 1988, and incorporated into the Sunday Mail’s free television guide, TV Plus. The 1990s saw TV Week lose significant circulation to an increasing number of these free magazine supplements, which were now included with most Sunday newspapers.
In 2002, ACP sought to end the partnership that was co-producing TV Week, then with a circulation of 265,000. Under a clause in the agreement, ACP was required to offer its percentage of the venture to Pacific Publications, for a pre-determined fee. If Pacific didn’t take up the option within a fortnight, it had to sell its share to ACP for the same sum. Pacific declined and TV Week was sold to ACP for $60 million, with the former TV Week staff at Pacific Publications immediately producing a rival guide, What’s on Weekly. A legal battle ensued over the rights to the Logie Awards, which finally went to ACP. The new publication lasted for 19 issues, the final few being heavily discounted in a forlorn attempt to gain sales. To date, this has been the last attempt to launch a national rival to TV Week.
More recently, the proliferation of online program guides has made significant inroads into the magazine’s traditional market, while a noticeable bias towards Seven Network programs—in particular, teen-oriented soap Home And Away—has seen the magazine’s demographic narrow, with circulation now as low as 181,000. Currently, TV Week remains Australia’s only stand-alone weekly television magazine.