TCM Courts Younger Viewers With Series

While remaining steadfastly committed to the classic-movie genre and its traditional viewing audience Turner Classic Movies will introduce a new series in 2003 that it hopes will draw in younger viewers.

Under The Influence, which features current stars talking about the classic movies that inspired them, will hopefully help the network reach an audience younger than its typical total-day viewer, who averages 56 years of age, said TCM senior vice president and general manager Tom Karsch.

The show is part of a slate of originals that also includes four new documentaries and several monthly movie festivals.

Although TCM dominates the classic film genre, the recent move by AMC — the former American Movie Classics — to revamp itself into to a commercial-based, contemporary movie channel has opened up additional windows of opportunity for TCM, according to Karsch.

The channel wants to expand its viewership by reaching 18-to-34-year-olds who aren't familiar with the movies of the 1930s through the 1960s.

"A lot of our audiences are older Americans who have a built-in relevance to our movies, but our challenge is to create that relevance among younger viewers," Karsch said. "It's an opportunity that we relish, but at the same time we can't forget who we are and who are primary audience is."

In walking that tight rope with viewers, the network in recent years has begun to incorporate more contemporary movies such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, As Good As It Gets
and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
into its various festivals to drive sampling by younger viewers.

"We want to get into [younger viewers'] 10- to 12-channel consideration set that they have when they're looking for something on TV," he said. "We're using newer movies to enter other people's consideration sets."

Karsch believes that the new original shows such as Under The Influence, and Directors Under 30
— a month-long movie festival highlighting young filmmakers' movies — can help TCM get on that list.

"Under The Influence
in particular is certainly a very straightforward tactic that we're using to appeal to a younger audience," he said.

On the documentary front, TCM in February will premiere The John Garfield Story, which highlights the career of the Hollywood's "original heartthrob"; Complicated Women,
a look at women who starred in movies made before the film industry's 1934 Code Of Ethics; Rita, a spotlighting the life of Rita Hayworth; and a portrait of famed director Cecil B. DeMille.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.