NEW YORK — In its most ambitious new magazine launch since the costly failure of its cable-TV guide, TV-Cable Week, six years ago, Time Inc. said Tuesday it plans to launch Entertainment Weekly magazine in February, 1990.
The new magazine, which has been under study for nearly two years, will contain reviews and reporting on television, movies, video, music and books and join Time's prestigious stable of weeklies--Time, People and Sports Illustrated.
Reginald K. Brack Jr., the head of Time Inc. Magazine Co., said the new magazine will capitalize on what he called an explosion of interest in entertainment by focusing on products rather than personalities.
Jason McManus, editor in chief of the magazine company at Time, said he is "eager to see us cover American culture and entertainment as we so successfully cover politics, sports, business and personalities in our existing magazines."
In addition to Time's weeklies, it publishes the biweekly Fortune magazine and the monthlies Money and Life.
The announcement came on the same day that Time was fighting in Delaware Chancery Court to preserve its merger with Warner Communications Inc. and to ward off a hostile takeover bid from Paramount Communications Inc. But Brack said the timing of the magazine launch announcement was "totally unrelated" to the court appearance.
Time declined to disclose how much it is investing in the launch of Entertainment Weekly, but some industry observers said they expect that it would require at least $20 million.
Time lost about $47 million in connection with its TV-Cable Week, which was launched in April, 1983, and folded five months later.
After that costly experience, some analysts said Time became more conservative in approaching new magazines.
It has invested as a partner in several magazines developed by others, including a 50% stake in a joint venture that publishes Working Woman and Working Mother magazines. It confirmed Tuesday that it plans to sell its stake to its partner in that project, Dale W. Lang, for a reported $25 million.
Time has not avoided new launches of its own. Its Southern Progress Inc., a Birmingham, Ala., magazine publisher acquired in 1985, successfully launched Cooking Light magazine in 1988. Time also launched Sports Illustrated for Kids, a monthly sports magazine designed for youngsters, last year.
But Time has not tried a national launch of a weekly magazine since TV-Cable Week folded. Its executives note that no one has successfully launched a weekly in the United States since Time's People magazine debuted in 1974.
Brack said no comparisons should be drawn between Entertainment Weekly and TV-Cable Week, which was a TV listings guide distributed and marketed mainly through cable system operators.
He said Entertainment Weekly will cover a broader range of entertainment topics than television alone and won't carry listings. In addition, he said Time will take full charge of marketing Entertainment Weekly.
Michael Moore, worldwide media director at the advertising agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, said the concept behind the new magazine is "terrific," with a good chance for success because "we are living in a world where people are spending more on experiences than they ever have."
Publisher Michael J. Klingensmith, who has been testing reaction to this type of magazine for more than a year through direct mailings, said Entertainment Weekly will start with a circulation of 500,000 and expects more than 80% will be sold through subscriptions at $1 a copy. The newsstand price will be $1.95 a copy.
He said tests indicate readers will be well educated and evenly divided between men and women.