Turner Classic Movies last week quietly moved into the TV Everywhere arena, offering simulcasts of its East and West Coast feeds to authenticated video subscribers via its website and on iOS and Android mobile devices via the “Watch TCM” app.
But the vintage film proponent, now celebrating its 20th anniversary and counting some 80 million subscribers, has brought much more to the platform than streaming simulcasts of Gone With the Wind, From Here to Eternity and A Streetcar Named Desire.
“Watch TCM” is also making more than 300 vintage theatricals available on demand each month, introduced by TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. Additionally, the app and website feature an array of curated material, including extensive film synopses, cast bios, trailers, clips and photo galleries, plus what channel executives say are TVE firsts relative to programming alerts, social media interaction and comprehensive blogger enhancements.
TCM’s TVE debut follows sister services TBS and TNT’s platform bows this past summer and was more than a year in the making. Many of the features were influenced by fans, who provided feedback via the TCM.com website and during multiple focus groups during the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood. In addition, TCM engaged in dialogue with its “inner circle” of fans and at sessions at Media Lab at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.
“We asked a lot of questions and received a lot of comments,” said Richard Steiner, vice president of digital activation for TCM. “We wanted this experience to be very deep and immersive for classic movie fans. We didn’t want to rush to market.”
Noted senior vice president of digital, affiliate, lifestyle and enterprise commerce for TBS, TNT and TCM Dennis Adamovich: “TCM viewers are a little different than most TV watchers. They want to share in our expertise and curation. It’s like a snowflake, adding a little bit more about each movie.”
Viewers can plan their schedules with a two-month interactive schedule. On-demand movies can be searched by TCM themes like “The Essentials” and “Friday Night Spotlight,” as well as by actors and other criteria.
Watch TCM features a daily mosaic of a star’s face — Vivien Leigh and Burt Lancaster are among the notables that have been displayed thus far — with users rolling over the tiles to discover which VOD titles are available that day.
The films are supplemented by thousands of trailers, clips and other content pieces, including previews of upcoming TCM programming. Image galleries are chock full of film photos and posters that fans can share via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“In addition to watching the films, TCM fans want to look at the films’ galleries and the posters, read the actors’ bios and find out about their milestones,” Adamovich said. “They want to absorb as much as possible about classic movies and their stars. Richard and his team have done a great job pulling in all this metadata.”
Steiner said the app also proffers such unique TVE components as subscriber mobile alerts pointing fans to upcoming titles or films starring their favorite actors. He also talked up a dynamic fan feed-sharing feature through which users can generate time-stamped comments to any of the on-demand films that can be seen by other fans. They can also stimulate fan interaction by posting their comments to Twitter or Facebook, as well as read comments from their peers. Steiner also lauded the “TCM Blog Reader,” which houses curated entries from leading vintage film writers.
“[It] brings curation to the forefront like nothing has done before,” Adamovich said.