TopBilled

TCM and Other Sources for Classic Film

4,105 posts in this topic

Andy, just out of curiosity, is your cable tv bill connected with your internet service? Like is is all "bundled" together in a package?

 

It's part of a Fios bundle, but the TV connection, the Set Top box and the taxes add up to almost exactly $85.00 a month.  What really kills me is keeping both a landline and a cellphone, not so much the TV or the internet connection.

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Andy, just out of curiosity, is your cable tv bill connected with your internet service? Like is is all "bundled" together in a package?

 

It's part of a Fios bundle, but the TV connection, the Set Top box and the taxes add up to almost exactly $85.00 a month.  What really kills me is keeping both a landline and a cellphone, not so much the TV or the internet connection.

 

Like so many discussion this one about 'is cable today better than T.V. in th 'old days' becomes too black and white.   Anyhow Andy, you make some very valid points and I tend to agree; overall T.V.  is WAY BETTER than the 'old days' as far as access to content.  It is crazy to think otherwise.

 

What is concerning about T.V. today is the lack of pricing options.   Even if al-carte isn't the answer it would be great if cable providers offer multiple T.V.  station bundles packages instead of starting out with 'basic' (which already is too expensive and has too many stations),  and than going right to extended basic etc....

 

e.g.  have stations in pricings tiers.   allow users to pick a set number of stations from these tiers with limits on the number of choices from the upper tiers.     

 

Hey,  I'm sure one can pick holes in my idea here but you get the general idea.  

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Nope, thanks for the insult, but not crazy or insane at all. Didn't you see Fred getting all hot and bothered about personal insults? :blink:

 

Point by point:

 

  • Today, you have one channel on basic cable that shows movies (redoubtable movies mostly, but movies nonetheless) without commercials. All others you pay extra. I wouldn't commend cable for that. In the old days, you had Playhouse 90 and the GE Theater and Rod Serling et cetera on regular FREE television. Guess you didn't have WNET where you lived? I watched free movies without commercials since WNET began. Sorry you missed that.

 

  • Don't care two figs about sports. You call the filth passing as sporting events today 'sports'? Um, okay.

 

  • History and science, ditto. I have to take your word for that. I get all my documentaries on PBS, which used to be free.

 

  • Analog flickered and distorted? Really? My CRT set was fine. Must have been your set.

 

  • Good for you, I'm happy that you're happy to pay your cable company for a zillion channels on basic cable, out of which a dozen are watchable, and pay even more for pay channels, which have a few excellent shows, but also have a ton of garbage.

 

But hey, I am assuming your opinion is the only opinion, so suit yourself.

 

EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH?????????????? Wow................................you DO live in North America, yes? :o

I've been a TV-watching space cadet for 50 years now and I never had a problem with crt-based analog TV either. The quality was just fine never having had full 20/20 vision myself.  :P The big sales line 30 years ago was that with the advent of multitudinous cable channels we were gonna see this explosion of variety. Bull! All most cable channels are doing is beating the same 90s sitcom crap into the ground and all those CSI spin-offs too. Channel after channel after channel it's the same dam 90s sitcom and CSI garbage and if it's not that it's Jerry Springer and the numerous divorce court judge whomever garbage. Variety my foot!  :angry:  TV content 40+ years ago was better.  :angry:

RCA's ground-breaking CT-100 with the 15GP22 tricolor kinescope CRT

i266mh.jpg

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Like so many discussion this one about 'is cable today better than T.V. in th 'old days' becomes too black and white.   Anyhow Andy, you make some very valid points and I tend to agree; overall T.V.  is WAY BETTER than the 'old days' as far as access to content.  It is crazy to think otherwise.

 

What is concerning about T.V. today is the lack of pricing options.   Even if al-carte isn't the answer it would be great if cable providers offer multiple T.V.  station bundles packages instead of starting out with 'basic' (which already is too expensive and has too many stations),  and than going right to extended basic etc....

 

e.g.  have stations in pricings tiers.   allow users to pick a set number of stations from these tiers with limits on the number of choices from the upper tiers.     

 

Hey,  I'm sure one can pick holes in my idea here but you get the general idea.

 

Sounds like a good idea to me.  What might be a good place to begin would be to get a list of what each cable network charges the providers in order to carry their content in their non-premium packages.  I know that ESPN is the most expensive network in my Fios lineup.  That doesn't bother me, since I watch ESPN a lot, but I can see the complaints of non-sports fans in having to subsidize people like me. 

 

Of course I doubt if many people at all ever watch more than a dozen or so "regular" channels.  For me it's just TCM, ESPN, TBS, the two local Comcast Sports channels, PBS, the occasional CBS/ABC/NBC/Fox sports presentation (never any of their regular programming), Al-Jazeera America (infinitely better than the competition for serious 24 hour news coverage, as opposed to nonstop partisan flaming), the MLB, NFL and NBA channels, and that's it.  Adding them up, it's 14 networks,10 of which I watch exclusively for sports.  Overall TCM is far and away the one I watch most, especially if you count the overnight recording hours.

 

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

My family pays $85 a month for cable, and I am still furious that TCM disappears from their lineup for periods of weeks at a time sometimes.

 

We've got Fios, and so far so good.  I dropped Comcast in favor of DirecTV because at that point it didn't carry TCM.  Had to switch to Fios because of satellite problems during bad weather.

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I'd like an ala carte approach. I live in terror of the World Cup taking over the world! They are trying to force it on us, and one day it will be fully covered on US cable! I'm in London at the moment and people are pretty keen on it here, but I don't want my cable bill to go up because of the cost of sports channels. Now if they had a cricket channel, I might feel differently...

 

I have three cable choices in my building: FIOS, Time Warner, and RCN, which is my cable company. FIOS would be cheaper, but I like RCN. And FIOS doesn't have TCM in HD.

 

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Bump:P  How is a Cary Grant docu-short at ten tonite suppose to beat out Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula on Me TV?  :D

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A la Carte channels would be nice but that would mean that my family's cable package would be only about 40 channels (or less).

That would be nice, but the cable channels have made sure their bribes have landed in the proper pockets to never let that happen.

 

It's all about the bottom line, after all, not customer satisfaction.

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 How is a Cary Grant docu-short at ten tonite suppose to beat out Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula on Me TV?  :D

 

And how are either of them supposed to beat out the final innings of Masahiro Tanaka going against the Red Sox?

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Bump:P  How is a Cary Grant docu-short at ten tonite suppose to beat out Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula on Me TV?  :D

I will be very eager to see tomorrow's top ten database searches...

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A la Carte channels would be nice but that would mean that my family's cable package would be only about 40 channels (or less).

 

It would be interesting to see if a station like TCM would survive under a true ala carte system.    They might have to lower their user fee (fee they charge the cable company that is passed on to users)  and add commercials to make up the difference if there wasn't enough of a market for their brand. 

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It would be interesting to see if a station like TCM would survive under a true ala carte system.    They might have to lower their user fee (fee they charge the cable company that is passed on to users)  and add commercials to make up the difference if there wasn't enough of a market for their brand.

 

I'd think that TCM would have little problem surviving an a la carte system, since doing away with packaging would free up lots of money to spend on one's favorite channels on a one by one basis.  While I don't know TCM's total audience, I strongly suspect that for many of its viewers, it would be right near (or at) the top of the list of channels they'd want to keep, even at a relatively steep a la carte price.  I can't imagine any semi-serious film buff who wouldn't be willing to ante up for a channel like this.

 

Not that I'd want to see this choice forced upon us, but I doubt if it would kill TCM.

 

OTOH the minute they stuck commercials in the middle of the movies, I'd pull the plug without a second thought.  We don't need another g-dmn AMC.

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 How is a Cary Grant docu-short at ten tonite suppose to beat out Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula on Me TV?  :D

 

And how are either of them supposed to beat out the final innings of Masahiro Tanaka going against the Red Sox?

 

Even better yet what difference does all of this make???

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It would be interesting to see if a station like TCM would survive under a true ala carte system.    They might have to lower their user fee (fee they charge the cable company that is passed on to users)  and add commercials to make up the difference if there wasn't enough of a market for their brand. 

There is a market they just gotta select films better than they currently are. I would be glad to help but they haven't asked me.  :lol:

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It would be interesting to see if a station like TCM would survive under a true ala carte system.    They might have to (snipped) add commercials to make up the difference if there wasn't enough of a market for their brand. 

 

Just an informal poll I often ask those with cable or a dish if they really watch all the channels they receive. The typical answer is "usually the same 10 channels or so" and they list news, sports, and a few "niche" channels along with "that classic movie" channel.

 

No matter what walk of life, 99% say they enjoy "that classic movie channel". Now whether this is true or they'd be willing to pay for it if given a choice, who knows?

I'd bet the casual viewer wouldn't mind commercials, whereas the "film fan" viewer would drop TCM like a hot potato if commercials were added.

 

I will be very eager to see tomorrow's top ten database searches...

 

I am curious TopBilled, as to WHY this kind of information is so important to you. You seem to be really into "numbers" and "popularity". I'm not criticizing you, just curious....

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I will be very eager to see tomorrow's top ten database searches...

 

I am curious TopBilled, as to WHY this kind of information is so important to you. You seem to be really into "numbers" and "popularity". I'm not criticizing you, just curious....

Tiki,

 

Two answers. The easiest answer: I like to see if my favorites (the ones I watch and look up on the database) correspond to the general public. The harder answer: I think the data can be used to bring about change in terms of programming, or else it can be used to continue current programming.

 

Now if people are asking why this information is important to me as way to cause it to be less important to me or to get me to stop posting the top ten each day, that is simply not going to happen. For those who do not like the data, then I suggest they appeal directly to TCM to remove the list from the website. But I suspect it is there for a reason, and for good reason, we can continue to discuss it.

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...I like to see if my favorites (the ones I watch and look up on the database) correspond to the general public.

 

Well, ya KNOW TB, even though he's somewhat well known, Quentin Tarantino COULD have been using this database TOO all this time for all we know, AND it COULD be argued that Quentin COULD be considered part of "the general public" TOO, ya know....I mean, as they say, "we ALL put on our pant legs one at a time", remember.

 

And so, the compiling of all this data..well..couldn't this be just ANOTHER case of, as you made note of in another thread around here recently, "useless trivia", ANYWAY?!

 

And so, I must ask: Why the heck do you care about all this at ALL then???

 

(...and besides, Quentin COULD be screwin' up ALL your figures here ANYWAY, ya know!!!) LOL

 

;)

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Well, ya KNOW TB, even though he's somewhat well known, Quentin Tarantino COULD have been using this database TOO all this time for all we know, AND it COULD be argued that Quentin COULD be considered part of "the general public" TOO, ya know.

 

(...and so, the compiling of all this data..well..couldn't this be just ANOTHER case of, as you made note of in another thread around here recently, "useless trivia", anyway?) ;)

 

LOL

Dargo,

 

I am surprised at you. Such a ruthless reply. LOL  Remember Stefanie is on The Rockford Files today.  On ME-TV. :)

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Dargo,

 

I am surprised at you. Such a ruthless reply. LOL  Remember Stefanie is on The Rockford Files today.  On ME-TV. :)

 

Didn't KNOW I could so "ruthless", now DID ya?! LOL ;)

 

(...and thanks for the heads-up about Stefie here) 

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Didn't KNOW I could so "ruthless", now DID ya?! LOL ;)

 

(...and thanks for the heads-up about Stefie here) 

I am using up all my likes on your posts! I won't have any left, until tomorrow...

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Well, ya KNOW TB, even though he's somewhat well known, Quentin Tarantino COULD have been using this database TOO all this time for all we know, AND it COULD be argued that Quentin COULD be considered part of "the general public" TOO, ya know....I mean, as they say, "we ALL put on our pant legs one at a time", remember.

 

And so, the compiling of all this data..well..couldn't this be just ANOTHER case of, as you made note of in another thread around here recently, "useless trivia", ANYWAY?!

 

And so, I must ask: Why the heck do you care about all this at ALL then???

 

(...and besides, Quentin COULD be screwin' up ALL your figures here ANYWAY, ya know!!!) LOL

 

;)

 

You know Dargo I asked Top yesterday on his Top 10 most-searched titles on the TCM database thread, before I was placed on Ignore from him the following:

Top,

 

I guess my questions to you are these:

 

What is the goal of this thread?

 

Is it to track the number of times a film is searched?

 

Or is it trying to figure out why certain films that are being searched are not being shown on TCM?

 

And if so therefore there is a reason people are coming here to the TCM database to search instead of going to IMDB or any other web site?

 

Is it really that important to know which film is ranked each day, and if so why is it important to you?

 

I guess ultimately you may have started this thread just to see which films ARE being searched and IF any of those films are either on TCM or are not on TCM.

 

But again to sit here each day and compile the list seems to me a waste of time, since anyone can go to the page where the list is and check it out for themselves. Of course, this is my opinion, obviously not yours, therefore there must be a reason why you are doing this each day. Maybe you are doing this as sort of some kind of research project? I do not know.

 

Just curious.

 

 

I am still awaiting an answer. Of course like you have posted could all of this be useless trivia or could it be another reason for wanting to post this info? And since I am on ignore and apparently I keep asking these types of questions to him which he does not seem to want to answer or tries evading the answer, I and many others will simply not know.

 

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There is a market they just gotta select films better than they currently are. I would be glad to help but they haven't asked me.  :lol:

 

Can you provide some details about the type of content you would show if you were the TCM programmer?   

 

e.g.  ratio of black and white to color movies?   Percentage of movies by decade.    Ratio of American movies to foreign ones?   etc...

 

Because without additional details one cannot say if there is a market or not for type of content you would select.   

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Can you provide some details about the type of content you would show if you were the TCM programmer?   

 

e.g.  ratio of black and white to color movies?   Percentage of movies by decade.    Ratio of American movies to foreign ones?   etc...

 

Because without additional details one cannot say if there is a market or not for type of content you would select.   

 

James, I am sorry to take up so much space again but this bears repeating, maybe not for you but definitely NipkowDisc and others who still seem to be unsure just how TCM goes about their programming ...

 

I provided NipkowDisc with answers to questions from Charlie Tabesh, TCM Senior Vice President of Programming. He appeared on the Silver Screen Oasis a few years ago to answer questions from their members. These were the questions to him and his answers:

 

Q: Once you have a kind of working agreement with a studio is there a package you lease or can you pick a certain number of titles in the deal?



 

A: We actually have pretty substantial agreements in place with every major studio. Traditionally networks license films for a set period of time (1 to 2 years, sometimes more, sometimes less) and a set number of runs during that time. There are real budget issues, so a model like that provides the incentive to play a film as many times as possible during that license period (because that means you could license fewer films).

We've tried to work with each studio to provide greater access to their so we could play some films only once or twice - that allows us to dig deeper and play titles that are rarely seen. As you know, when we do any sort of festival (star-of-the-month or anything else) we like to showcase films that might not be as well-known but that are important to the theme we're highlighting. We still have plenty of limits and by no means do we have access to every film from every studio but on any particular month I think you'll see films from all of them.

 

Q: Besides rights issues, what are some of the other problems you encounter when trying to book older, lesser known titles?



 

A: Other than rights the biggest issue, by far, is quality of materials. A lot of films are in very bad condition, some aren't playable at all. And even if a studio does have film elements, they still need to be transferred to video which can be very expensive (and cost-prohibitive).



 

Q: I don't have to tell you that TCM has a very loyal core audience and we all have varied tastes when it comes to films and what we expect from TCM. It has to be very challenging to try and program something for everybody. Are there times when you're working on a schedule and just pounding your head on your desk trying to decide whether to add a lesser know, seldom seen, classic for all of us serious film buffs or another run of some well know film (like "Singing in the Rain") in an effort to get viewers who may tune in because they've seen it before or at least have heard of it? How do you do it?



 

A: That is really the balance that we try to achieve. As you suggest, our hardcore fans, and I assume most people here at Silver Screen Oasis, are excited about the rare or obscure titles. But we're also a place that many people discover classic movies for the first time. In addition - because there are so few options out there for classic movie fans - some people are watching TCM almost all the time and, to them, any repeat is annoying because they might have seen that film on the channel a month or two ago.

One more point: if we play a title 5 or 6 times a year, that's a whole lot for us; that might happen with less than a dozen titles each year and the average title plays between 1 to 2 times in a year. And even when we play a film 5 or 6 times, it's almost always at different times of the day. But if you've seen those films a few times you want something new and different. So we're trying to please a lot of people and different levels of classic movies fans. I'm sure we get it wrong sometimes but we do take pride in our role and try to do our best.



 

Q: Three questions from one fan:


What market research is considered when selecting films and themes?
 What are the demographics of the "typical" TCM viewer and how important is that "typical" viewer when programming?


 

A: No, we've never done any sort of research at all on what festivals or films we want to play. We've done some marketing research here and there to see how the brand is doing but never anything to help determine what to play. As for the "typical" TCM viewer, I think we have two primary audiences: 1. older people that remember a lot of these films from when they were younger and have a nostalgic feeling for them, and 2. hardcore film fans, people that just love movies, a group that spans all ages; of course this doesn't capture everyone and there's a lot of overlap between them, but that seems to be a broad description of the TCM fans.

 

Q: Does Warners strike new prints or make new transfers of films for viewing on TCM or do you have to simply have to program what you are told is available?



 

A: No studio strikes new prints for us, including WB. And if a film hasn't yet been transferred to video, they usually will only do the transfer themselves if there's a dvd market for the film, our license fee is high enough to cover that cost (plus a little more), or if we pay for it ourselves. There are some exceptions, but economics certainly drives a lot of the decision-making, as you might expect. With regard to WB specifically, many of the films were transferred years ago by Ted Turner. In the '90s WB acquired the TEC library but for a lot of films we still use transfers that were made many years ago. We're in conversations now with WB on the best way to update the library, and I should say there are some people there (one in particular) who are very passionate about that and they're taking a leading role in the process.

 

Q: Explain a little bit about how TCM programs. And do the programmers ever read the message boards to glean ideas from posters here?



 

A: Films are shown on average 4 or 5 times per year. Some films are shown 6 or 7 times per year. Half of all the movies contracted for are shown once per year. There are many different themes and franchises that require a film to be shown multiple times. For instance if North By Northwest is contracted to be shown 6 times throughout the year, it might show up during a Cary Grant SOTM, or it might show up during a salute to Hitchcock, or James Mason. Then the film will be shown sporadically the rest of the year. It might even be a part of the Essentials which could mean one or two showings per season.

 

The programmers spend a lot of time and energy trying to gain access to many films from many different studios. It can be very costly to get a film shown, that is why TCM usually contracts for about 50 films per studio per year. They don't always get 50, most times it is around 20 to 30 per year from each studio.

It's all about economics - but also about the type and quality of films TCM can license. And we have to license every film we get. We license films on 12 or 24 month contracts. If during negotiations they want to get To Kill a Mockingbird which might command a $1 million dollar fee, they will then get another batch of films to show just in order to get TKAMB. In other words the studio may want a contract that guarantees one or two showings of TKAMB but they then would want TCM to show 14 other lesser known fills 4 times each year.



 

There is also a cap. There is only so much money available to rent high quality films each year. So TCM has to be careful how they are going to license the films and how many they can afford from each studio.

As far as just how many older films are available to show on TCM, TCM can show films with film stock, we just have to convert the film to a digital format. But as is the case with Universal which had a fire at their film storage facility a few years ago, many film masters were destroyed, hence they aren't available anymore. Or TCM would need to investigate with other sources to get another film from that library.



 

Again there are many films that just are not available now. Many of the studios spend a great deal of restoration dollars but again they have only so much money to go around as well. They spend most of their money developing newer films for younger audiences. You can't blame them for that. That is where the real advertising money is available.

 

As far as the message boards are concerned everyone here at TCM reads them almost everyday. Especially when it comes to the Star of the Month and Summer Under the Stars. Sometimes debates rage within the programming department to see if certain titles are available and what would be necessary to acquire those titles. Most often than not many titles are simply not available to us, but that is slowly changing. We have some staffers who read the message boards to get other ideas as well. There is a wealth of information that our fans bring to the message boards and even though it may look like we are not paying attention, rest assured we are.

 

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Can you provide some details about the type of content you would show if you were the TCM programmer?   

 

e.g.  ratio of black and white to color movies?   Percentage of movies by decade.    Ratio of American movies to foreign ones?   etc...

 

Because without additional details one cannot say if there is a market or not for type of content you would select.   

Hammer horror, 1960s family and Don Knotts comedies and 50s sci-fi.  :D

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Hammer horror, 1960s family and Don Knotts comedies and 50s sci-fi.  :D

 

Wow, that sounds REALLY good.

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James, I am sorry to take up so much space again but this bears repeating, maybe not for you but definitely NipkowDisc and others who still seem to be unsure just how TCM goes about their programming ...

 

I provided NipkowDisc with answers to questions from Charlie Tabesh, TCM Senior Vice President of Programming. He appeared on the Silver Screen Oasis a few years ago to answer questions from their members. These were the questions to him and his answers:

 

Q: Once you have a kind of working agreement with a studio is there a package you lease or can you pick a certain number of titles in the deal?



 

A: We actually have pretty substantial agreements in place with every major studio. Traditionally networks license films for a set period of time (1 to 2 years, sometimes more, sometimes less) and a set number of runs during that time. There are real budget issues, so a model like that provides the incentive to play a film as many times as possible during that license period (because that means you could license fewer films).

We've tried to work with each studio to provide greater access to their so we could play some films only once or twice - that allows us to dig deeper and play titles that are rarely seen. As you know, when we do any sort of festival (star-of-the-month or anything else) we like to showcase films that might not be as well-known but that are important to the theme we're highlighting. We still have plenty of limits and by no means do we have access to every film from every studio but on any particular month I think you'll see films from all of them.

 

Q: Besides rights issues, what are some of the other problems you encounter when trying to book older, lesser known titles?



 

A: Other than rights the biggest issue, by far, is quality of materials. A lot of films are in very bad condition, some aren't playable at all. And even if a studio does have film elements, they still need to be transferred to video which can be very expensive (and cost-prohibitive).



 

Q: I don't have to tell you that TCM has a very loyal core audience and we all have varied tastes when it comes to films and what we expect from TCM. It has to be very challenging to try and program something for everybody. Are there times when you're working on a schedule and just pounding your head on your desk trying to decide whether to add a lesser know, seldom seen, classic for all of us serious film buffs or another run of some well know film (like "Singing in the Rain") in an effort to get viewers who may tune in because they've seen it before or at least have heard of it? How do you do it?



 

A: That is really the balance that we try to achieve. As you suggest, our hardcore fans, and I assume most people here at Silver Screen Oasis, are excited about the rare or obscure titles. But we're also a place that many people discover classic movies for the first time. In addition - because there are so few options out there for classic movie fans - some people are watching TCM almost all the time and, to them, any repeat is annoying because they might have seen that film on the channel a month or two ago.

One more point: if we play a title 5 or 6 times a year, that's a whole lot for us; that might happen with less than a dozen titles each year and the average title plays between 1 to 2 times in a year. And even when we play a film 5 or 6 times, it's almost always at different times of the day. But if you've seen those films a few times you want something new and different. So we're trying to please a lot of people and different levels of classic movies fans. I'm sure we get it wrong sometimes but we do take pride in our role and try to do our best.



 

Q: Three questions from one fan:


What market research is considered when selecting films and themes?
 What are the demographics of the "typical" TCM viewer and how important is that "typical" viewer when programming?


 

A: No, we've never done any sort of research at all on what festivals or films we want to play. We've done some marketing research here and there to see how the brand is doing but never anything to help determine what to play. As for the "typical" TCM viewer, I think we have two primary audiences: 1. older people that remember a lot of these films from when they were younger and have a nostalgic feeling for them, and 2. hardcore film fans, people that just love movies, a group that spans all ages; of course this doesn't capture everyone and there's a lot of overlap between them, but that seems to be a broad description of the TCM fans.

 

Q: Does Warners strike new prints or make new transfers of films for viewing on TCM or do you have to simply have to program what you are told is available?



 

A: No studio strikes new prints for us, including WB. And if a film hasn't yet been transferred to video, they usually will only do the transfer themselves if there's a dvd market for the film, our license fee is high enough to cover that cost (plus a little more), or if we pay for it ourselves. There are some exceptions, but economics certainly drives a lot of the decision-making, as you might expect. With regard to WB specifically, many of the films were transferred years ago by Ted Turner. In the '90s WB acquired the TEC library but for a lot of films we still use transfers that were made many years ago. We're in conversations now with WB on the best way to update the library, and I should say there are some people there (one in particular) who are very passionate about that and they're taking a leading role in the process.

 

Q: Explain a little bit about how TCM programs. And do the programmers ever read the message boards to glean ideas from posters here?



 

A: Films are shown on average 4 or 5 times per year. Some films are shown 6 or 7 times per year. Half of all the movies contracted for are shown once per year. There are many different themes and franchises that require a film to be shown multiple times. For instance if North By Northwest is contracted to be shown 6 times throughout the year, it might show up during a Cary Grant SOTM, or it might show up during a salute to Hitchcock, or James Mason. Then the film will be shown sporadically the rest of the year. It might even be a part of the Essentials which could mean one or two showings per season.

 

The programmers spend a lot of time and energy trying to gain access to many films from many different studios. It can be very costly to get a film shown, that is why TCM usually contracts for about 50 films per studio per year. They don't always get 50, most times it is around 20 to 30 per year from each studio.

It's all about economics - but also about the type and quality of films TCM can license. And we have to license every film we get. We license films on 12 or 24 month contracts. If during negotiations they want to get To Kill a Mockingbird which might command a $1 million dollar fee, they will then get another batch of films to show just in order to get TKAMB. In other words the studio may want a contract that guarantees one or two showings of TKAMB but they then would want TCM to show 14 other lesser known fills 4 times each year.



 

There is also a cap. There is only so much money available to rent high quality films each year. So TCM has to be careful how they are going to license the films and how many they can afford from each studio.

As far as just how many older films are available to show on TCM, TCM can show films with film stock, we just have to convert the film to a digital format. But as is the case with Universal which had a fire at their film storage facility a few years ago, many film masters were destroyed, hence they aren't available anymore. Or TCM would need to investigate with other sources to get another film from that library.



 

Again there are many films that just are not available now. Many of the studios spend a great deal of restoration dollars but again they have only so much money to go around as well. They spend most of their money developing newer films for younger audiences. You can't blame them for that. That is where the real advertising money is available.

 

As far as the message boards are concerned everyone here at TCM reads them almost everyday. Especially when it comes to the Star of the Month and Summer Under the Stars. Sometimes debates rage within the programming department to see if certain titles are available and what would be necessary to acquire those titles. Most often than not many titles are simply not available to us, but that is slowly changing. We have some staffers who read the message boards to get other ideas as well. There is a wealth of information that our fans bring to the message boards and even though it may look like we are not paying attention, rest assured we are.

 

 

James, I am sorry to take up so much space again but this bears repeating, maybe not for you but definitely NipkowDisc and others who still seem to be unsure just how TCM goes about their programming ...

 

I provided NipkowDisc with answers to questions from Charlie Tabesh, TCM Senior Vice President of Programming. He appeared on the Silver Screen Oasis a few years ago to answer questions from their members. These were the questions to him and his answers:

 

Q: Once you have a kind of working agreement with a studio is there a package you lease or can you pick a certain number of titles in the deal?



 

A: We actually have pretty substantial agreements in place with every major studio. Traditionally networks license films for a set period of time (1 to 2 years, sometimes more, sometimes less) and a set number of runs during that time. There are real budget issues, so a model like that provides the incentive to play a film as many times as possible during that license period (because that means you could license fewer films).

We've tried to work with each studio to provide greater access to their so we could play some films only once or twice - that allows us to dig deeper and play titles that are rarely seen. As you know, when we do any sort of festival (star-of-the-month or anything else) we like to showcase films that might not be as well-known but that are important to the theme we're highlighting. We still have plenty of limits and by no means do we have access to every film from every studio but on any particular month I think you'll see films from all of them.

 

Q: Besides rights issues, what are some of the other problems you encounter when trying to book older, lesser known titles?



 

A: Other than rights the biggest issue, by far, is quality of materials. A lot of films are in very bad condition, some aren't playable at all. And even if a studio does have film elements, they still need to be transferred to video which can be very expensive (and cost-prohibitive).



 

Q: I don't have to tell you that TCM has a very loyal core audience and we all have varied tastes when it comes to films and what we expect from TCM. It has to be very challenging to try and program something for everybody. Are there times when you're working on a schedule and just pounding your head on your desk trying to decide whether to add a lesser know, seldom seen, classic for all of us serious film buffs or another run of some well know film (like "Singing in the Rain") in an effort to get viewers who may tune in because they've seen it before or at least have heard of it? How do you do it?



 

A: That is really the balance that we try to achieve. As you suggest, our hardcore fans, and I assume most people here at Silver Screen Oasis, are excited about the rare or obscure titles. But we're also a place that many people discover classic movies for the first time. In addition - because there are so few options out there for classic movie fans - some people are watching TCM almost all the time and, to them, any repeat is annoying because they might have seen that film on the channel a month or two ago.

One more point: if we play a title 5 or 6 times a year, that's a whole lot for us; that might happen with less than a dozen titles each year and the average title plays between 1 to 2 times in a year. And even when we play a film 5 or 6 times, it's almost always at different times of the day. But if you've seen those films a few times you want something new and different. So we're trying to please a lot of people and different levels of classic movies fans. I'm sure we get it wrong sometimes but we do take pride in our role and try to do our best.



 

Q: Three questions from one fan:


What market research is considered when selecting films and themes?
 What are the demographics of the "typical" TCM viewer and how important is that "typical" viewer when programming?


 

A: No, we've never done any sort of research at all on what festivals or films we want to play. We've done some marketing research here and there to see how the brand is doing but never anything to help determine what to play. As for the "typical" TCM viewer, I think we have two primary audiences: 1. older people that remember a lot of these films from when they were younger and have a nostalgic feeling for them, and 2. hardcore film fans, people that just love movies, a group that spans all ages; of course this doesn't capture everyone and there's a lot of overlap between them, but that seems to be a broad description of the TCM fans.

 

Q: Does Warners strike new prints or make new transfers of films for viewing on TCM or do you have to simply have to program what you are told is available?



 

A: No studio strikes new prints for us, including WB. And if a film hasn't yet been transferred to video, they usually will only do the transfer themselves if there's a dvd market for the film, our license fee is high enough to cover that cost (plus a little more), or if we pay for it ourselves. There are some exceptions, but economics certainly drives a lot of the decision-making, as you might expect. With regard to WB specifically, many of the films were transferred years ago by Ted Turner. In the '90s WB acquired the TEC library but for a lot of films we still use transfers that were made many years ago. We're in conversations now with WB on the best way to update the library, and I should say there are some people there (one in particular) who are very passionate about that and they're taking a leading role in the process.

 

Q: Explain a little bit about how TCM programs. And do the programmers ever read the message boards to glean ideas from posters here?



 

A: Films are shown on average 4 or 5 times per year. Some films are shown 6 or 7 times per year. Half of all the movies contracted for are shown once per year. There are many different themes and franchises that require a film to be shown multiple times. For instance if North By Northwest is contracted to be shown 6 times throughout the year, it might show up during a Cary Grant SOTM, or it might show up during a salute to Hitchcock, or James Mason. Then the film will be shown sporadically the rest of the year. It might even be a part of the Essentials which could mean one or two showings per season.

 

The programmers spend a lot of time and energy trying to gain access to many films from many different studios. It can be very costly to get a film shown, that is why TCM usually contracts for about 50 films per studio per year. They don't always get 50, most times it is around 20 to 30 per year from each studio.

It's all about economics - but also about the type and quality of films TCM can license. And we have to license every film we get. We license films on 12 or 24 month contracts. If during negotiations they want to get To Kill a Mockingbird which might command a $1 million dollar fee, they will then get another batch of films to show just in order to get TKAMB. In other words the studio may want a contract that guarantees one or two showings of TKAMB but they then would want TCM to show 14 other lesser known fills 4 times each year.



 

There is also a cap. There is only so much money available to rent high quality films each year. So TCM has to be careful how they are going to license the films and how many they can afford from each studio.

As far as just how many older films are available to show on TCM, TCM can show films with film stock, we just have to convert the film to a digital format. But as is the case with Universal which had a fire at their film storage facility a few years ago, many film masters were destroyed, hence they aren't available anymore. Or TCM would need to investigate with other sources to get another film from that library.



 

Again there are many films that just are not available now. Many of the studios spend a great deal of restoration dollars but again they have only so much money to go around as well. They spend most of their money developing newer films for younger audiences. You can't blame them for that. That is where the real advertising money is available.

 

As far as the message boards are concerned everyone here at TCM reads them almost everyday. Especially when it comes to the Star of the Month and Summer Under the Stars. Sometimes debates rage within the programming department to see if certain titles are available and what would be necessary to acquire those titles. Most often than not many titles are simply not available to us, but that is slowly changing. We have some staffers who read the message boards to get other ideas as well. There is a wealth of information that our fans bring to the message boards and even though it may look like we are not paying attention, rest assured we are.

 

DOA is public domain so you can run 'er alotta times.  :)

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