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Does Turner Classic Movies Have a Future?

Established in the 1990s, Turner Classic Movies has been a godsend for fans of old movies. During a period when fewer and fewer stations are showing movies that date before the 1990s, TCM continues to embrace the format. On almost any given day, you can tune in to see a mystery from the 1930s, a western from the 1940s, a horror movie from the 1950s, or a romantic comedy from the 1960s.

Veteran TCM host Robert Osborne, who died earlier this year. By Peabody Awards (Turner Classic Movies) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As you might expect, TCM’s regular audience skews older. Like cable news networks, this is a problem for the station as they will eventually lose them, not to other channels, but to death. Old movies are a wonderful way to learn about the past and appreciate the stars and cinematic techniques that led to the long-term development and popularity of the movies as an art form.

However, the key to ensuring continued viewership is through young people and that is increasingly a challenge for the network. When I was a child, there was not nearly as much to choose from entertainment-wise. I actually developed a fondness for old movies out of desperation; there was nothing else on, so I watched them. Nowadays, with hundreds of channels and so many other diversions available, getting young people interested in sitting down to a slow, possibly clunky, and (horrors!) maybe even black and white movie is a very tough sell. As the audience for such programming declines, the station is faced with some tough choices, including the possibility of adding commercials as a way of increasing revenue.

That would be a real shame as TCM feels increasingly like the last stop for old movie lovers. It’s a cultural source that needs to continue, not just for old fogies like me but for the knowledge and entertainment of generations to come.