TCM is a haven for classic film fans but Turner Classic Movies might become a victim of Warner Bros. Discovery’s cost-cutting efforts.
I cannot tell you the number of times per week that I look through the TCM guide on YouTube TV and set movies to record. It happens more often than you might realize–less so when I’m busy during a film festival. But now that I’ve lost MLB Network because YouTube TV won’t make a deal, I cannot afford to lose TCM. Without the network, there’s no way that I would have watched as many films honored by AFI as I did. This past year was the first time that I made an effort to cover the annual Summer Under The Stars programming. Elvis Presley would kick things off because of the movie’s arrival HBO Max but alas, David Zaslav’s devotion to theatrical would also mean changes for theaters-to-streaming.
I can always depend on TCM to find something to watch for Saturday Night Classics. It could be a Cary Grant film that is new to me. Maybe it’s a film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. You never know. TCM carries a vast library of movies because through WBD’s ownership of both Warner Bros. and MGM’s classic film libraries. One of the smartest things in Ted Turner’s career is buying MGM and choosing to keep its library before putting the company up for sale again. There’s a Max Steiner documentary that I never knew about until checking the April programming guide. Daniel Raim has a documentary on cinematographers that aired recently and I’ve been meaning to check it out. There are many TCM documentaries that are not on physical media, streaming, or available to rent. This is how important the network is to people!
Because of the network, I’ve had not one but two opportunities to interview Ben Mankiewicz. The first opportunity is because of The Plot Thickens. A second opportunity came about because of a roundtable interview. It’s the first interview, which came two months and change into the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, in which Ben Mankiewicz told me the following:
This channel is really the only channel on television that means something emotionally to people. Shows might matter, right? People might connect with the shows but they don’t connect with the letters of the network. Nobody is a diehard ABC fan, right? They might love some stuff on ABC. Nobody is a diehard Starz fan, right? A diehard Showtime fan. They might like a show but they don’t believe in the channel. I love Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men on AMC but I don’t like or love AMC. That’s crazy—an absurd thing to say. Right?
Beyond my interviews with Ben Mankiewicz, I had an opportunity to join in on the press day for the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival. Fun fact: other regulars covering the film festival annually were not even invited. The fact that I even received an invite to cover that year’s virtual film festival is such an honor. It was my first opportunity to interact with some of the people that we now know are leaving the company:
- TCM General Manager Pola Changnon
- Festival Director Genevieve McGillicuddy
- SVP of Programming Charlie Tabesh
I understand that media corporations across the board are looking to cut costs. There are better ways to do that than lay off people. While they’re bringing in someone with previous experience (Michael Oueweleen) running the network, it won’t be the same. When Zaslav forces these three out, there’s this idea that TCM is forever done as know it. I really hope this isn’t the case. When Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson arrange an emergency conference call with David Zaslav, you know they mean business. They issued the following joint statement following their call with Zaslav:
Turner Classic Movies has always been more than just a channel. It is truly a precious resource of cinema, open 24 hours a day seven days a week. And while it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception.
Earlier this week, David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, got in touch to talk about the restructuring of TCM. We understand the pressures and realities of a corporation as large as WBD, of which TCM is one moving part.
We have each spent time talking to David, separately and together, and it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him. Our primary aim is to ensure that TCM’s programming is untouched and protected.
We are heartened and encouraged by the conversations we’ve had thus far, and we are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all treasure.
TCM represents a national treasure for classic film fans–it provides film history that no other network is able to offer. WBD cannot be allowed to screw it up.
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