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Is TCM changing?


SansFin
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The earliest copies of the Now Playing guide which I have available are from the year 2007.

 

The March 2007 copy shows the highlights of the month are:

1) Cover story of Gene Kelly

2) Guest Programmer of David Mamet

3) Private Screenings for Jane Fonda

4) "Watching the Detectives"

 

The April 2007 copy shows the highlights of the month are:

1) Cover Story of Rita Hayworth

2) "No Animals Were Harmed"

3) "Lost and Found"

4) Guest Programmer of Lorraine Bracco

 

I contrast that with:

 

The June 2013 copy shows the highlights of the month are:

1) Cover story of Eleanor Parker

2) Friday Spotlight of "Noir Writers"

3) Spotlight of "Sammy Cahn in Hollywood"

4) Guest Programmer of Joseph Abboud

5) "Working Women Who Surrender in the End" which counterpoints the April Friday Spotlight

6) Anthony Mann Westerns

 

The July 2013 copy shows the highlights of the month are:

1) Cover story of Paul Henreid

2) Friday Spotlight of Francois Friggin Truffaut

3) Essentials Jr.

4) Guest Programmer Frank Rich

5) "The 4th on Film"

6) "Carson on TCM" series begins

7) Tribute to Mel Brooks

 

We are anticipating the September airing of:

1) SOTM Kim Novak

2) and 3) Two nights each week for: The Story of Film: An Odyssey series begins

4) Friday Spotlight of futuristic movies

5) Sundays dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock

6) Guest Programmer

 

I see in these changes a marked shift in programming in that TCM seems to me now to be establishing more regular features and they are developing tributes and spotlights far beyond their tradition of grouping a few movies which share a theme.

 

I believe TCM is moving towards a fixed schedule similar to broadcast stations albeit in evening-long segments rather than one-hour programs and that they are placing more emphasis on multiple th?mes du mois than on variety within a month.

 

Edited by: SansFin on Jul 3, 2013 12:25 AM

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Looks like. Along with other developments is the encrusting of the schedule with the series you noticed. Though they present the opportunity for much new material, they seem also to a large extent the repackaging of old movies to give them a fresh appeal. So, instead of, "The Maltese Falcon, again," it's now: Friday Night Spotlight: Film Noir.

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The packaging may be somewhat different, but I can't see that the essential mission has changed, unless anyone thinks that mission was to restrict TCM to showing nothing but the Hollywood product from the "Golden Age" up through the 1950's.

 

July's Truffaut retrospective, the Hitchcock retrospective in September, and the Story of Film series beginning that same month are just three more signs that the real mission of TCM is to present the best movies from wherever they might be found, uninterrupted and commercial-free. They can repackage it however they want, but it still seems like the same TCM to me.

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Too soon to tell, I guess, but it may be a case of "the more things change, the more they stay the same". That is to say the change may be more in the packaging than in actual content. The focus on Truffaut is a little out of left field but certainly not unprecedented. Heck, Hayao Miazaki was a spotlighted director of the month a few years back.

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I think you're right about there being more emphasis on block programming, but I have to say that seeing all the upcoming listings together like that got me excited, not disappointed or perplexed. "The Story of Film"? Awesome. Frank Rich? Looking forward to it. "Working Women Who Surrender In the End"? I have great expectations. TCM, like most entities and beings, is maturing and I think this tendency toward film study rather than more scattershot programming is part of that. One thing participation in these message boards has taught all of us is that film fans and TCM fans in particular run the gamut. There's no golden mean that will please everyone. The theme programming approach will of course amount to considerable reprogramming of familiar titles, since that seems to be one of the constants about TCM that most people agree on. But I think it will also make it possible to bring some more obscure, less obvious choices into the mix. I wouldn't be surprised if programmers were willing to go further to get rights for rare and legally compromised films if they needed it to fit a theme. I'd also like to suggest that, since you illustrate your theory by referencing "Now Playing" magazine, some of the shift in emphasis could be attributable to editorial changes at the magazine itself? Anyway, I was pleased to see this thread and to read your thoughts. A good subject for discussion.

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I should state that I am not disappointed with these changes. I must wonder if others notice the effect or if I am seeing a thing which is not truly real.

 

I can see this 'packaging' as affecting selections. TCM traditionally airs twenty to thirty premieres in each month. A particular day's or evening's theme may have one to two premieres chosen for it.

 

When a theme extends throughout a month then it seems to me that they will have to have more premieres for that theme. This will mean that lesser themes and simple birthday tributes will have to have less premieres because of the natural limits of budgets and time.

 

I believe this will mean great things for viewers whose tastes are in line with those themes or topics but viewers whose tastes are not in line with the expanded themes will see only more repeats.

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It will be interesting to see how the apologists spin this. And I mean that in a nice way, because sometimes I sit at the defense table with TCM's programmers.

 

I think the extra use of themes provides them with more identifiable marketing strategies.

 

But...I also think that some of the changes are not as easy to spot, because there are deeper trends and more long-term aspects of programming and packaging that are sweeping across TCM which viewers do not pick up on so easily.

 

For example, nobody has posted about the slight change in the 'Roll Film' logo that began about two or three months ago. I am referring to the one with the pop-ups. It used to end with the text 'Roll Film,' but now when the last page is turned it says TCM. As if folks did not know what Channel they were watching.

 

And when the guest hosts are on screen, their name now flashes with the TCM logo accompanying it. That may have happened before, but not so often and the TCM lettering was not so large and noticeable. So more and more, whoever is in charge, is trying to establish through repetition and over-exposure of the brand name how much TCM is coming into our homes. It's a little overboard if you ask me, like an obvious form of brainwashing and label-wearing.

 

I'm sorry. Everyone knows I love TCM. But Wilma Jeanne made me write this. She's the truth-saying muse that sits on my shoulder, named after the original rabble-rouser Jeanne Cooper.

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I agree with SansFin. TCM has changed in some ways, true. But compare it to other channels (surely we can all think of at least a couple) that used to show classic films but hardly ever do now, and when they do they are butchered beyond recognition, plastered with ads for other programs right over the film, and often subject us to 65-minute films stretched to two hours or more because of commercials. TCM is still the only film channel that respects the films and thus, respects its audience by not ruining those films. In fact if it weren't for TCM I would probably cut back to really cheap basic cable. And I like the themes. I didn't miss a second of the Film Noir Fridays, and being half Canadian I had a blast and a big piece of back bacon with the cheesy-but-charming selections on Canada Day. If I were a programmer, I believe I too would use themes like this.

 

Yes, there are some TCM films now that stretch the definition of "classic" well past the breaking point ("Terrorvision?" Really?). But this is an inevitable conundrum when faced with changing audience demographics; you see this playing out on "classic rock" radio too, where stations have decided that '80s stuff, and even some '90's, can now be called "classic." It's not all perfect. I'd like to see certain genres better represented ('50s sci-fi, for example), but we can't control what's in Ted's film library. The biggest change has been in the much more aggressive marketing of its videos, cruises, etc. Still, the station remains an island of excellence in the dreck of cable movie channels. I dread the day that TCM REALLY changes, as it eventually will; good things always end. But so far, TCM still shows unedited, commercial-free films without any of the glop that other channels put on the screen. TCM respects its viewers more than any other cable network, and for that I remain a genuine fan of this channel..

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Great post MrWham. I heartily concur. I especially like your final sentence: "TCM respects its viewers more than any other cable network, and for that I remain a genuine fan of this channel..". I too dread the day when this great channel will change.

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}

> And when the guest hosts are on screen, their name now flashes with the TCM logo accompanying it.

 

I have not noticed that. Such things become invisible when repeated frequently if they are innocuous.

 

I understand that there is much competition for viewership and that all channels are fighting to retain their market-share. Even although TCM is not fighting for ratings which translate to advertising dollars they most likely need to sustain viewership numbers because they factor into negotiations for carriage fees.

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I have no idea how to go about this, and maybe it's been tried already, but if I were TCM I'd be doing a lot more to cultivate mainstream reviewers, especially when something like Truffaut month or Hitchcock month is playing, or when The Story of Film series commences.

 

The truth is that there is an untapped audience for TCM programming that simply isn't being reached, for two reasons IMO.

 

First, most people work, and with only a few prime time hours of films that are competing with far more familiar stuff on other channels, it's very easy to be blissfully unaware of TCM's existence. I know from my own experience that until I closed my shop and began working from home, I had little idea of just how deep and varied the TCM vault was. I'd been vaguely aware that I could see my old AFI 100 favorites, because that remains much of the prime time lineup, but if I'd known about the rest of what was being offered, I would have paid much more attention and acted accordingly.

 

But second, with a tiny handful of exceptions, most mainstream reviewers focus almost exclusively on new movies, even though they often allude to classic films in their writings. If only there were a way to grab the attention of those reviewers and perhaps even get them to do a brief monthly mini-feature on the upcoming lineup, I would think that the TCM audience would find newly enthusiastic viewers.

 

It's not as if there's no untapped audience for these non-current and far more interesting selection of movies; it's just that so much of this potential audience doesn't even know TCM exists.

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Well Andy wishing to 'cultivate mainstream reviewers' would be more reality programming.

 

I know I'm a cynic but I don't think getting those that do not know TCM exists to understand what TCM has to offer would lead to many more TCM viewers. They know black and white movies and movies made before they were born exist. That doesn't motivate them to seek these movies out. I think it takes one-on-one mentoring.

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> {quote:title=jamesjazzguitar wrote:}{quote}Well Andy wishing to 'cultivate mainstream reviewers' would be more reality programming.

>

> I know I'm a cynic but I don't think getting those that do not know TCM exists to understand what TCM has to offer would lead to many more TCM viewers. They know black and white movies and movies made before they were born exist. That doesn't motivate them to seek these movies out. I think it takes one-on-one mentoring.

>

One-on-one mentoring is ideal, but unless you think that nobody's ever influenced by movie or TV reviewers I can't help but think that that sort of publicity would help. Of course how you *get* mainstream critics to pay attention to anything but current movies is another story, but I think it would definitely be worth making the effort.

 

I should add, however, that I'm not talking about "mainstream" viewers in the generic dumbed-down sense, as I realize that TCM is never going to attain viewership numbers on anywhere near that level. I'm talking about trying to reach the sort of viewers who are receptive to entertainment that doesn't necessarily aim at the lowest common denominator, and who don't watch TV only to keep up with the next morning's water cooler conversation. Quiet as it's kept sometimes, there *are* millions of such people, and they aren't all currently aware of TCM.

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In what type of media would this "movie or TV reviewers" promote studio era movies and TCM? Not TCM I hope since that would be folly (i.e. someone that doesn't know about TCM isn't going to go to TCM to learn more about TCM).

 

So it would have to be either on Facebook, Twitter or on a TV show (e.g. a news program), that features a TV reviewer. I don't see the TV station the reviewer is on allowing them to promote another network (unless TCM paid the network).

 

Sorry to be a Debbie downer, but I think the ways to exposed the unexposed are limited and challenging.

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Wow! I haven't noticed much of a change in TCM programming over the last few years. Yes, maybe they're programming a few more '70s and '80s movies, but then we get such gems as "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nicholson telling the snotty waitress what she can do with the chicken or Peter O'Toole swinging from the balcony in "My Favorite Year" which (gasp!) is my favorite O'Toole movie. Yes, over "Lawrence" or even "What's New, Pussycat?"

 

I work weekends, so I have Wednesdays and Thursdays off. And I can tell you that TCM shows plenty of "B" movies from the '30s and '40s during weekdays. Yet, a few Saturdays ago I got home in time to watch "Breathless." I had always heard about this film, but viewed it for the first time on TCM. Incredible. And Jean Seberg was so beautiful.

 

 

 

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> {quote:title=AndyM108 wrote:}{quote}

> Of course how you *get* mainstream critics to pay attention to anything but current movies is another story, but I think it would definitely be worth making the effort.

 

I have seen "movie news" sections of entertainment sites mention 31 Days of Oscar on the same page as information about recently-released movies and movies in production. It may be that TCM is hoping that grand month-long themes will receive also such placement to make movie-watchers aware of TCM.

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> {quote:title=crock1960 wrote:}{quote}

> I haven't noticed much of a change in TCM programming over the last few years.

 

It is not a change in programming as much as it is a change in packaging in that they are creating features and themes which span several weeks rather than the theme-a-day model which they maintained for many years.

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I searched to find how TCM advertises in print media to attract viewers. The best which I found is from the time there was a screenwriters' strike. It looks to be typewritten on a page of script paper and it states: "This is a message from TCM to all the Hollywood screenwriters on strike: Keep it up, guys. After all, the greatest movies have already been written."

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I think that part of the change in TCM is due to their hardcore fan base. They have a core group of viewers who are classic film fans and as we all know, once you are hooked on the films and have seen the "must see" list, you want to dig deeper and see some of the more obscure titles. TCM has been around for many years now and it's evolving with the viewership that they have cultivated over the years. They have shown us all the "must sees" and now they are helping us branch out with themes featuring foreign films and genre films and various directors. I think it's great.

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Here in LA, the LA Times has occasional feaures.on TCM, usually tied into one of the channels special programming, i.e the Carson shows. Others here have posted links on articles in other papers. TCM must have regular press releases sent to all the media outlets on their upcoming special programming. some will decide to run the occasional story on this.

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>TCM must have regular press releases sent to all the media outlets on their upcoming special programming.

 

Yes they do. Somewhere around this place is a button or two that will lead you to the TCM Press Release page.

 

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

 

Press Release page

 

http://news.turner.com/tcm

 

Edited by: FredCDobbs on Jul 4, 2013 12:36 PM

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They also have a large Facebook and Twitter presence in addition to traditional media. There is also a thread about TCM at the Television Without Pity web forum.

 

Just last week the LA Times and the entertainment show *Hollywood Insider* highlighted TCM's partnership with the Carson Archive for their Monday night spotlight on Johnny Carson.

 

They also utilize web advertising for the annual *31 Days of Oscar* and *SUTS*. I have seen their advertising for those on IMDB and a variety of other internet sites.

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