MEDIA: SUNDAYS' TV SECTIONS - Sundays' TV supplements square up Traditionally dominant, Sunday newspapers' TV supplements have had to change to meet the challenge of a new raft of Saturday rivals.

Staff on Sunday newspapers have felt themselves under sustained pressure for the last four or five years. While competition between Sunday papers has always been tough, there is now an equally large threat from the Saturday papers.

Changing lifestyles have led to publishers directing more resources behind the Saturday papers and readerships are increasing as a result. Weekend NRS figures for the period April to September this year show higher readership for Saturday editions of the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian than The Observer. Compared to the figures for the same period last year, the NRS readership figures for the four broadsheet Sunday papers have all fallen.

One of the ways the Sundays have sought to shore up their position has been to improve their TV listings and attempt to get readers to retain them throughout the week.

This is the logic behind last week's move by The Observer to launch a new landscape format handy-size (128mm by 210 mm) TV section, the 40-page Observer TV.

At the same time, the broadsheet Review section will gain four extra pages and an increase in colour slots. This will now include the TV and film features and reviews from the now defunct Screen section, alongside the arts and books features, other reviews and cultural comment that it already ran. The move comes as The Observer showed an ABC circulation figure for October up 11 per cent year on year.

For the Sundays, it is not just TV coverage that has become more important but arts in general with the increased popularity of cinema, making film the most critical area. Books, too, have become more important and book serialisation in particular has become increasingly competitive.

The increased competition means that the sums paid for rights are increasing and many Sunday papers are employing book consultants to spot and secure good properties.

In response to the competition from the Saturday papers, the quality Sundays are increasingly trying to broaden their appeal to secure the 'Middle England' market so successfully targeted by the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

One sign of this is the increased attention given to popular culture and celebrity. Another is the desire to be more comprehensive in coverage.

After the Middle England Mail readership, the next most sought after is the block of 18 to 25-year-olds that comprise tomorrow's readership. As a result there is an increasing number of younger, often female, section editors.


John Mulholland

Position: deputy editor

'We have created Observer TV which is a new, all colour, stand-alone stapled guide to the week's TV and radio.

'It contains listings and previews in a more keepable format - something incredibly important for a Sunday paper.

'As part of the change, the Review section of the paper will increase by four extra pages and will carry the TV and film features that were in the Screen section.

'There are two reasons to change. First, we knew our old listings did not compete with our rivals and had to give our readers something they were likely to hold on to for the whole week. Second, we had to consolidate all cultural and arts coverage into one section.'


Sandy Mitchell

Position: editor

'The Review covers everything from general features, interviews with the most interesting person of the week, book reviews, arts features and TV reviews.

'Our readers are discerning - they want the sharpest, best-informed and most accurate reporting. The male/female split is even - we are quite deliberate in maintaining a balance between who the features appeal to.

'Research proves we are read by something like 85 per cent of people who buy the paper. Our features often come off the week's news. For example, when Ann Widdecombe proposed sterner drug measures, we thought it would be amusing to send out a very distinguished Tory (Andrew Chancellor) to Amsterdam to try dope for the first time.'


Hero Brown

Position: editor

'The IoS has tried many ways of doing TV. We have it in Reality now as the section has more longevity to it than others in the paper.

'We changed the format six weeks ago and brought in columnists such as Victoria Coren, who does an 'out and about' column. It's regarded as a women's section although only 60 per cent of our readers are women.

'The thing that sets us apart from our rivals is that we can be quite irreverent. We have regular beauty and health coverage, three pages of fashion, and several pages of features with celebrity-angled stories, and personal and lifestyle pieces, for example about moving to the suburbs. We are quite current and have stories coming off the news.'


Helen Hawkins

Position: editor

'Culture was changed in 1998 when we were redesigned into full colour throughout, and books came into the magazine. It comprises arts pages, covering film, TV, music, architecture, comedy etc, the books section and the TV listings. We have the facility to do a major interview and several big features - not just reviews. The colour reproduction facilities mean that we can have fun with layouts.

'I think we have more clearly defined sections than our rivals. For example, we have the 'media spread' (AA Gill and Radio Waves), Critical List (a spread on what to see) and our record and video reviews.

'Everyone on the Sundays is aware of the competition from Saturdays and everyone is trying to do the 'all singing and dancing' arts section.'

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