From its founding in 1953 until the 1980s, ''TV Guide'' was the most popular magazine in the United States, and appeared every week about Thursday, and would carry content for the following Saturday through Friday. Its primary focus was carrying local TV station listings. It started out as a split format, with approximately 15-30 slick magazine-type pages created by the national office in Radnor, Pennsylvania (later moving to King of Prussia), which formed the outside "shell" of the magazine. The inner portion consisted of local content, mostly TV listings for the local stations, printed on newsprint. The local content was created by about 20 local offices all over the U.S.

In the 1980s, ''TV Guide'' was sold to UsefulNotes/RupertMurdoch's News Corporation, which proceeded to turn the magazine into more of a general publicity rag, similar to ''People'' or a half-dozen other magazines already out. ''TV Guide'' was sold to Gemstar Corporation, inventor of the VCR Plus device that allowed people who couldn't figure out how to program a VCR (which TV Guide had the codes for in their magazines for years). However it was pretty much only bought in order to put a known brand behind their ubiquitous software seen on every cable and satellite guide, and to control patents for basic guide interfaces (such as the grid) which forced other guide providers to use other forms of presentation which are incredibly inconvenient, or like [=TiVo=] and DishNetwork did, pay Gemstar and paste a ''TV Guide'' logo on the screen for the right to use the grid interface (the software is now owned by Rovi Corporation).

Under Gemstar, the magazine discontinued the local broadcast station listings in 2005, with all program information was [[MagazineDecay cut down to a singular national edition]] in 2005 which is filled with fluff pieces and lists, along with TV listings which make those in the ''Great Falls Argus'' look comprehensive, focusing mostly on national cable networks thereafter (the major broadcast networks remained included, however, a generic "local programming" placeholder title was used in the now fully grid-based listings[[note]]From its inception until the 2005 reformat, ''TV Guide'' displayed its listings in log form, i.e. a text-based list of programs organized in order of airtime and ''then'' by channel; the grids, which listed programs by channel first in accordance to the program's airtime, was not added until the late 1980s for prime time listings, and eventually replaced the logs in all non-prime time dayparts beginning in 2004[[/note]] instead of showing the actual titles of programs scheduled by their local stations). Afterward, ''TV Guide'''s original local listings format basically existed as a cable/satellite channel carrying on-screen listings (and not even those in some markets) with [[NetworkDecay some fluff shows on Hollywood and infomercials]]; that channel, then known as TV Guide Channel, originated in 1981 as the Electronic Program Guide before becoming known as Prevue Guide in 1988, and was united with ''TV Guide'' magazine when Gemstar purchased the channel (by then, known as Prevue Channel) from Prevue Networks in 1998.

Meanwhile the end of 2008 saw a disastrous divorce of the magazine/cable network's website and the magazine itself; TV Guide Channel and TVGuide.com were sold to Lionsgate, while ''TV Guide'' was sold to private equity group OpenGate Capital for $1, forcing the two entities apart onto two separate websites in a true WhatAnIdiot move. After basically nobody visited the magazine's website (mainly because there were no TV listings on it to speak of), Lionsgate eventually let the magazine put their site back on TVGuide.com in June 2010 as a conciliatory move.

TV Guide, a production fairly typical of banal LowestCommonDenominator TV listings magazines around the world (Great Britain also has its fair share), was responsible for the utter destruction of the original ''JumpTheShark'' website. Having bought out the JTS website, TV Guide stripped the guts out of it and removed everything that made it compulsive reading. For one thing, JTS had genuine international appeal not unlike ThisVeryWiki: for instance, British shows not screened in America could be debated and deconstructed. TV Guide wrecked this aspect by stripping out the international content and retaining only a fraction of what there had once been, which was exclusively tied to current American shows. (And they wonder why Americans in the main are so parochial and inward-looking...) This act of wanton vandalism towards a genuinely great, original, and readable website will always be remembered, even if it can't easily be forgiven.

In 2013, {{CBS}} acquired a half-interest in the TV Guide Channel, rebranding it as TVGN; it later took on a true rebranding in January 2015 as "Pop" (the TVGN name was confusing as TVG, a horse racing network oddly started by TV Guide during the News Corp. era, shares the same initials). A half-interest was also acquired in the digital properties, making it very likely that it will become a non-neutral source of television news, much in the way that ''Series/EntertainmentTonight'' barely acknowledges that NBC and Fox exist. The magazine, meanwhile, after undergoing significant cost-cutting under OpenGate that made it profitable again, was sold in October 2015 to an actual publisher, NTVB Media, placing it under the ownership of lesser-known competing listings/TV news magazines such as ''Channel Guide'' and ''TV Weekly'', and opening the possibility of it eventually adding local listings again since the two aforementioned magazines are distributed to newspapers throughout the U.S. with local listings inserts incorporated.

The final word on TV Guide is that [[WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy Peter Griffin]] identifies it as his favorite magazine and [[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Homer Simpson]] regards it as indispensable intellectual literature. [[note]]These characters were fans of the magazine's glory days, however.[[/note]] Says it all, really...[[note]]Except for the program ads during the glory days, which have become the stuff of legends and discussions--Website/PlatypusComix has done about a dozen articles on the subject at this point and has ''barely'' scratched the surface.[[/note]]