Heat's 'clone' warning to new rival Hot Stars

Hot Stars: standalone rumours

Emap has hit back at Northern & Shell’s launch of Hot Stars and warned it will take legal action if the title shows too many similarities to Heat.

Hot Stars, which is distributed free every week with OK! magazine, has been described by rival celebrity titles as a "Heat clone".

Louise Matthews, managing director of the entertainment market at Emap, claimed it was a "poor imitation" of Heat. "At the moment, we are not taking legal action but that does not exclude us from taking action in the future," she said.

Matthews refused to comment on whether Emap had taken legal advice but added: "We don’t see it as a major threat because it doesn’t have any of Heat’s attitude or contacts."

The 68-page title incorporates 10 pages of news from OK!’s "news in focus" section and is edited by Martin Smith, editor of The Daily Express’s Saturday Magazine.

Smith said the magazine was targeting a young market and he had been given a "free reign". He denied there were any similarities to Heat and said Hot Stars was based on a similar concept to Freetime, OK!’s 64-page TV and entertainment listings guide which he edited previously.

"Freetime was very popular and very successful but I always fancied doing a magazine that had a lot more features," he said.

Smith denied there were any plans to launch Hot Stars as a standalone but the move has sparked debate within the industry that the launch could be a sampling exercise.

Despite OK!’s January to June ABC, which showed an increase of 43 per cent and sales of 651,513, insiders say owner Richard Desmond is keen to cash in on Heat’s success and its previous ABC increase of 148 per cent.

Jane Ennis, editor of celebrity weekly Now, said the launch was more of a problem for Heat but added: "I have always maintained that Heat copied quite a lot from us when it repositioned. It’s a case of he who laughs last laughs loudest."

She also said it was highly probable that Desmond had an "agenda". "He could launch it as a standalone and probably will because he is a very astute businessman with a very fertile mind," she said.

Matthews agreed it was a logical assumption but said: "At the moment it smacks of a freebie. It will have to be a lot better than that if it is to sustain the cat fight on the news-stands, it is incredibly aggressive."

By Ruth Addicott

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