TCM Sets Its Sights Younger

As part of a multifaceted game plan to add more younger viewers to its audience, Turner Classic Movies has reached an on-demand distribution deal with Time Warner Cable.

TCM will provide 10 hours worth of classic-movie titles such as Mildred Pierce, Captain Blood and Night of the Iguana — along with movie trailers and comments from such network hosts as Robert Osbourne — to Time Warner Cable subscribers.

The cable operator, a sister company to the vintage-movie purveyor, joins Comcast Corp. in offering TCM product on-demand.

“It supplements the core network beautifully, because it gives people the opportunity to see these movies on their own time,” said TCM executive vice president and general manager Tom Karsch. “We all realize time is the greatest commodity that none of us have, especially when you’re talking about sitting down for a two-hour movie. The ability to watch, stop and watch it whenever you want it fantastic for us and our brand.”


The network, which already provides some programming through the Internet via Akimbo Systems, is also looking to other new technologies to appeal to viewers beyond its core 25-to-54 audience of classic-movie fans. Karsch said TCM is seeking opportunities to extend its brand into the wireless arena, as well as distribute content to college campuses, although he declined to identify potential partners.

“The biggest growth area for us is through new technology,” Karsch said. “New platforms like VOD and [digital video recorders] are perfect for us, because it allows us more people to sample our brand and our product.”

In an effort to reach younger viewers via its traditional linear cable channel, TCM will present cult films on Friday nights next year.

The classic-movie channel early in 2006 will bow “TCM Underground,” a weekly home for cult and underground movies such as the 1970s blaxploitation film Shaft, the controversial Harold and Maude, and the violent 1960s film Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!

Karsch said the network’s Friday late-night franchise push will target young adults who are often just starting to watch TV after 11 p.m. Given the success of sister service and Cartoon Network spinoff Adult Swim in appealing to 18-to-34-year-olds, Karsch said the movies hopefully will draw new eyes without alienating the network’s target audience, which tunes in to view such vintage films as Mutiny on the Bounty, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Public Enemy.


TCM also hopes to promote a more youthful veneer via a new movie-database site it plans to launch later this year.

Much like other sites, like the Internet Movie Database (, will feature a cornucopia of information for over nearly 140,000 films and more than 1 million actors and actresses, according to Richard Steiner, managing director of interactive for TCM.

The database will provide the lowdown on classic and contemporary movies from the likes of Citizen Kane and Casablanca to more recent titles, like Doom and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, according to Steiner.

But unique to TCM’s site will be video clips from many movie titles, as well as additional information and features often found within the pages of DVD packaging.

“Having comprehensive data is great, but being able to actually see clips of the films and go behind the scenes to see how certain movies were made will hopefully make people more interested in classic movies,” Steiner said. “If you really want to understand what an actor or a movie is about, the ability to look at clips gives you more of a flavor than just reading a [actor] bio or movie [synopsis].”

Fans will also be invited to post information or rare photos about the titles.

“There are a lot big classic-film fans out there, so if they wanted to contribute a piece of trivia or information they submitted and we’ll add it with a [personal] citation,” he said. “It makes the site very user friendly and user-generated.”

The site also will encompass some 14,000 exclusive images from over 1,300 titles that are part of TCM’s library.

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.