UPDATE #6: I Want My TCM Streaming App!

UPDATE 7/10/14 7 2 PM (ET)

TCM has released a promo for the Watch TCM app to the network’s YouTube channel :

UPDATE 3/1/14 7 PM (ET)

TCM has announced that the Watch TCM app is now available for Kindle. You can download it at Amazon.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 5.13.26 PM

UPDATE 2/12/14 11:30 PM (ET)

timewarnercable_logo_1CNBC’s David Faber is reporting that Comcast has reached a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction valued at $45.2 billion, besting Charter Communications and their competing $37.4 billion offer. Pending FCC approval, the merged company would be the largest cable provider in the nation, with more than 33 million subscribers (although early reports indicate the merged entity may divest 3 million pay TV subscribers, in a nod to regulatory concerns.)

So how does the merger affect classic film fans? Of the 25 largest cable and satellite providers in the nation, Time Warner and their Bright House Networks affiliate are the only ones not currently offering the Watch TCM streaming app to their subscribers. This deal makes it all but guaranteed that more than 13 million current Time Warner and Bright House customers will finally be able to stream TCM on their computers, iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

But when? There are still a lot of variables to resolve: the deal must first be announced (expected to happen Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m.); the FCC must approve the merger; and Comcast must reveal how long they plan to keep the Time Warner Cable brand (and previously negotiated deals) intact.

Whether or not TCM is included in your basic Comcast pricing tier likely depends upon where you live. Gregory from Washington D.C. tells me on Twitter that it is, and Marc in Silicon Valley tells me it isn’t. At least we know that Comcast’s Xfinity TV service offers TCM’s HD feed, which some providers (like Verizon FIOS ) do not.

According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, “The two companies expect the merger to receive government approval and take effect by the end of the year.” In the meantime, Time Warner Cable subscribers will have to stay tuned….

UPDATE 2/2/14 8:00 PM (ET)


1. There is no legitimate way to watch TCM programming for free.
2. Watch TCM is only available to current cable and satellite subscribers who get TCM on TV.
3. Watch TCM is, as of this writing, only supported on computers/laptops, iPhones, Android devices, and iPads. There is no (legitimate) way to access the Watch TCM app on your TV.
4. Watch TCM is not currently available via Apple TV, the Roku Streaming Player, or Google Chromecast.
5. Watch TCM is still not available to subscribers of Time Warner Cable or Bright House.
5A. You can’t record the films on Watch TCM
UPDATE 12/9/13 9:00 PM (ET)

Basic CMYKTurner Classic Movies announced today on Facebook and Twitter that DirecTV, the nation’s largest direct-broadcast satellite provider, will now offer the Watch TCM streaming app to their customers.

DirecTV was not among the providers with affiliation agreements when Watch TCM launched on November 6, and today’s announcement means that the number of households with potential access to the TCM app increases substantially – from around 60 million to around 80 million. 

With more than 20 million video subscribers, DirecTV is the second-largest multichannel video programming distributor (M.V.P.D.) in the country, just behind Comcast and its Xfinity service. Today’s announcement means that TCM now has digital rights deals in place with 23 of the top 25 providers.

time-warner-cables-wifi-networkStill absent from this list is former sister company Time Warner Cable, with more than 12 million video subscribers in the U.S. The other holdout is Bright House Networks, a leading cable provider in Central Florida. Bright House was formerly part of the Time Warner Entertainment – Advance/Newhouse Partnership, and their carriage deals are often tied to those of Time Warner Cable.

According to Reuters, Time Warner Cable announced on October 31 that they had lost 304,000 video subscribers in the third quarter of 2013 alone, blaming the mass customer exodus on the month-long blackout of CBS earlier this year. TWC management also indicated they were open to deals.

I have a great suggestion of a deal they can start with – offering Watch TCM to their subscribers.

UPDATE 12/10/13 5:30 PM (ET)

“We don’t have an agreement at this time, but we remain open to discussions with Turner,” Maureen Huff, Vice President of Public Relations for Time Warner Cable told me in an email message.

Source for M.V.P.D. subscriber data – National Cable & Telecommunications Association. 

Original Post – 11/6/13: 

watch_tcmIt just got a lot easier to watch classic films, anytime, anywhere. At least for some of us.

Today, Turner Classic Movies quietly debuted their long-awaited streaming service, accessible on the TCM.com website and via a newly designed smartphone and tablet app (for iPad, iPhone and Android phones). Dubbed Watch TCM, the service emulates TCM’s on-air feed, and adds a “second channel,” an online-only West Coast feed, for live streaming. This will allow viewers in the Pacific time zone to watch TCM’s primetime schedule in primetime, for the first time, albeit not on their TVs. (Unlike most national networks, TCM lacks an actual broadcast feed for West Coast viewers, though general manager Jeff Gregor announced at the TCM Film Festival in April that a second feed was under consideration.)

In addition, TCM will also offer full-length films on-demand for unlimited, commercial-free, online streaming – with on-air introductions from hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz (where extant). The network says “nearly every title playing on TCM is available to watch On Demand,” though, at launch, the service only appears to offer 65 selections at a given time, with a streaming window of seven days from the film’s most recent broadcast. For example, THE CONQUEROR WORM (1968) aired on the channel on November 1. Streaming access to that title expires on November 8. And, as titles cycle out of the availability window, new titles will cycle in. TCM says films will be available on-demand roughly three hours after airing “if we have the digital rights to play the movie.”

Ben“We’re excited to bring TCM to you wherever you are,” Ben Mankiewicz says in a tutorial video embedded in the app and posted on the website’s help page. “We’ve created a one-of-a-kind classic movie environment with great films, in-depth information, hands-on content, and much more.”

With two different live TCM streams, as well as on-demand access to films you may have missed on-air – or want to watch again, for the 100th time – that’s certainly true.

But it’s not true for everyone. Watch TCM is available only to existing cable or satellite subscribers who already get TCM at home, and whose providers have chosen to participate. If you subscribe to Cox, Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse, Cablevision’s Optimum, Dish Network, Charter, Suddenlink Communications, and a host of other smaller providers, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re not. (Sorry, cord-cutters.)

Conspicuous by its apparent absence from this list is Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second largest provider and a former sister company to TCM. (Time Warner Cable was spun off from parent Time Warner in 2009 and no longer has a corporate affiliation with Time Warner-owned channels, like TCM). For 12 million Time Warner customers, including me, Watch TCM is still an activity we can only engage in at home, on our TV sets. (At least, as of now.)

Predicting the questions that will likely arise from the launch of an application not all viewers can use, Mankiewicz leads viewers step-by-step through the authentication process on video, and consoles the unlucky few who will miss out (at least initially) on what is arguably the best thing to happen to classic film fans since TCM’s launch nearly two decades ago.


“Some of you may not see your TV service provider on our list. Unfortunately, that means we don’t currently support access to Watch TCM content for you at this time,” he says, gently breaking the bad news. “But, check back with us often, as we are adding new providers frequently.

After scrolling down the provider list one more time, just to be doubly sure Time Warner wasn’t perhaps mis-labeled as “Warner, Time” or “Place Where I Mail All My Disposable Income,” I clicked on “Provider Not Listed” and was greeted with this message:

“We’re sorry! Watch TCM is currently not available from your TV provider. We encourage you to contact your TV provider and demand Watch TCM to get access to our live feeds and feature films.” (Bolded text is my doing, not TCM’s.)

For those of a certain age who once called cable companies and yelled, “I want my MTV!” this may bring back some fond memories.

The message goes on to remind me and the other unlucky TCM fans whose cable providers have not yet negotiated streaming agreements with Turner Broadcasting that, “Even if you cannot access our feature films, Watch TCM Mobile is full of amazing content.”

And this is true. The mobile app will allow for access to the more than 10,000 assets in the TCMdb library, including photographs, movie posters, and more than 1,000 video clips that will available (not all at once, or course) for unrestricted viewing. There’s also a two-month schedule that allows users to set alert notifications, and a blog reader featuring links to fan-authored classic film sites, including favorites like Once Upon a Screen and The Classic Film & TV Café.

VivienBut the “killer app” in this app is the streaming, obviously. And, though it was originally due “Summer 2013,” it looks like it was worth the wait. TCM appears to have done streaming right, with an intuitive interface, stylish design, and the opportunity to customize your user experience. Available on-demand titles can be selected as thumbnail images or in a text list, with at-hand data on production information, duration, and date of availability expiration. There’s also an elegant home page, with all available titles collaged to form the image of a classic film star. On Day 1 it was Vivien Leigh, who is currently (posthumously) celebrating her centenary.

On-demand films on the website are categorized five ways: by title, actor, director, genre, or theme. Initial themes are tied to current (or recent) broadcast blocks such as THE STORY OF FILM (7 titles available at launch), the 100th birthday tribute to Vivien Leigh (6 films), TCM’s birthday salute to Gig Young (8 films), the selections from recent guest programmer Gilbert Gottfried (2 films), and weekly blocks like Friday Night Spotlight (3 screwball comedies) and the Sunday late night TCM Imports series (1 film). (Initially, in the smartphone version of the app, you can only select by title, genre, or theme.)

Users can also “subscribe” to favorite stars, add films to an electronic watchlist, get alerts when selected films become available on-demand, share links of entire films to social media sites, and buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray with a click-through to the TCM Shop. There’s also an opportunity to comment on the on-demand titles using a function TCM is calling “Fan Feed,” where viewers post using their Twitter or Facebook identities.

Today’s kickoff appears to have been a soft launch, considering that TCM has not issued an official announcement regarding the app or the availability of streaming functionality. I’m hoping this has to do with eleventh hour negotiations with Time Warner Cable, but that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be looking for the phone number for Verizon.


About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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79 Responses to UPDATE #6: I Want My TCM Streaming App!

  1. Aurora says:

    Great post as usual. Always amazed at how you get to things immediately! I MUST quit my day job!! THANKS so much for the mention too! I’m heading over to peruse the app now. Haven’t been able to so far. What I saw looks gorgeous – loving the design!!


  2. Elise says:

    This is why I left Time Warner. They never have the things I want, except of course my sorely missed TCM HD.
    Come to the dark side Will.
    Darth Lise

  3. Danny says:

    You’re a gentleman and a saint, Will. Thanks for the info!

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this Will. I’ve been playing with the app most of the night and I still learned from you here 🙂 Typical – me learning even more from you, right?

    It’s a beautiful app that I get lost in pretty easily. The bad part is Directv isn’t on the list of providers either. At least as of a 1/2 hour ago. Hopefully it will be there soon!

    • willmckinley says:

      Sarah, you should call Direct TV and threaten to change providers or something. That’s what I’m going to do with Time Warner.

      • Jandy says:

        We have DirecTV too, and unfortunately, we can’t threaten to switch as our apartment complex has an exclusive deal with DirecTV. Well, I guess we could threaten, but it would be pretty empty. On the other hand, if cable service weren’t included in our rent, we probably wouldn’t have it at all, so we’d be out of luck anyway. :/ Still, both TWC and DirecTV seem like pretty major omissions, so hopefully they’ll work out deals with them soon.

      • Sarah says:

        I think I WILL change providers. Been wanting to anyway. To me this is a glaring error on Directv’s side of things.

      • willmckinley says:

        Sarah, keep in mind that, just because DirecTV doesn’t support the app at launch, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. I was already to switch from Time Warner to Verizon FIOS because of this, but then I found out that FIOS doesn’t carry the TCM HD feed. That’s a deal breaker for me.

  5. Angelabsurdist says:

    Another excellent post. I don’t think it’s available in Canada. Aargh!

  6. This is going to be awesome! Hoping to be able to get it to my TV through Roku eventually … any word on that, Will?

    You know, I spotted this on TCM.com a little earlier this afternoon and thought, Hmm, something new. I never expected to be able to read such a full, detailed report so soon–great work!

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks Cliff. Honestly, I’d be surprised to see it on Roku. I think the concept behind it is, it’s an ancillary service,designed to supplement, but not supersede the home viewing experience. When you talk about Roku streaming at home, on your widescreen TV, that’s a venue that takes eyes off of the broadcast channel.

  7. Kristen says:

    Any word on why some people are getting unauthorized error messages despite having cable providers listed and being able to login?

    • willmckinley says:

      Kristen, I logged on this afternoon and it worked fine. Then I tried again during primetime and it didn’t work. I think there may have been some bandwidth overloading going on during primetime tonight. That may have explain the wonkiness.

  8. kristina says:

    I can confirm the app is Not available in Canada. Also can confirm I’m not surprised, “but not in Canada” has become a familiar refrain when it comes to streaming. Boo. Wonderful informative post though, as always, I could read that from here. 🙂

  9. I just tried searching for the Watch TCM app in the App Store (Apple) and nothing is coming up. I don’t think it’s available to Canadian users 😦 What a bunch of BS. But your post was really good – exceptionally well put-together Will.

  10. finerdetailz says:

    Do you know if Direct TV is going to be added? God I hope so. I watch TCM every single day..,

  11. finerdetailz says:

    Is Direct TV going to be added as a provider? Please please please

  12. Colleen Costello says:

    I thought this day would NEVER come. Early Christmas present! Thanks Will! PS: too cool….you’ve been on TCM & met Robert!? You’re a #rockstar
    I never did want a Red Rider bee-bee gun (nor a leg lamp) cause I’d surely have put my eye out BUT my dream is to be a Guest a Programmer & go to the TCM Film Fest. Ahhh…..well, Ben did reply to one of my Tweets; it’s a start!

    • willmckinley says:

      Colleen, thanks for the comment. TCM hasn’t officially announced this yet, but they’re planning to have TWENTY fans on air as guest programmers to celebrate the channel’s 20th anniversary in April. I’ll share details when they become available, but maybe this will be your big chance to be on-air as a programmer.

  13. Rick says:

    Excellent informative review, Will! There’s a job awaiting you at CONSUMER REPORTS…though we’d miss your thoughts on all things film-related.

  14. Ktrek says:

    My disappointment with this news is that TCM is still not offering an online subscription service. I and millions of others would willingly shell out $10 a month to get TCM without having to buy a cable package. I can’t believe that they seem to be uninterested in the revenue they could make via subscription.

    • Veronica says:

      My feelings exactly. I would gladly pay for this single streaming service. Netflix is perfect for me in this regard. I recently shut off the $90 a month basic cable service I had because I only ever watched TCM and Surewest has no cheaper package that includes it. Been in withdrawal ever since! TCM, if you’re listening, please move in the direction of streaming subscriptions.

      • willmckinley says:

        Veronica – I’d be curious to hear how much you’d be willing to pay for a Netflix-style TCM streaming service available on your TV.

      • Lisa says:

        I would be willing to pay up to $10 a month to get TCM. It’s a tad much for one channel but hopefully there would be more than just one channel. If there wasn’t, I would still pay the $10.

      • Stuart says:

        I am happy to report that after opening a ticket with Charter Communications it magically started working on our iPad 4 days after we called them. They never called to tell us what the problem was and I am afraid to even call them lest someone make another change and break it again. Fingers crossed it keeps working. I would still like the option of buying TCM streaming as a stand alone product and not having to work through my cable provider. TCM customer support is non existent. My only option was to hope and pray for a fix from my CATV provider. Good luck Lisa!

    • Jandy says:

      Keeping their good relationship with the cable companies, though, is likely worth more than individual subscriptions at this point. If they offered an individual subscription, cable companies would likely start dropping them, which would adversely affect their revenue. So while it seems like to us they’re leaving money on the table by not offering individual subscriptions to those of us who would rather have TCM alone and not cable, they really aren’t, because they get more from being part of cable packages than they would from us.

      But I think the cable model is ultimately doomed, and we’ll eventually reach the point where it is more valuable for channels like TCM to go out on their own. I hope so. 🙂

      • willmckinley says:

        I agree 100%. I know for a fact that a lot of us would cut the cable cord if TCM offered a subscription video-on-demand service (SVOD). TCM knows that too, and so do satellite and cable providers. TCM also knows they could get away with charging more than $10 per month for an SVOD service. Most of us watch TCM daily and, I think, would be willing to pay at least $20 per month to be able to permanently drop our over-priced cable TV packages (which require us to pay for dozens of channels we don’t watch).

        But, subscriber fees from cable providers are still a primary source of revenue for the network. TCM is available in more than 83 million homes, and it would take a lot of monthly subscriptions to replace the per-home subscriber fees if TCM moved away from a cable model. Also, I would hate to see TCM lose the platform of a national cable network in 80+ million homes.

        But the current cable model is doomed, and we will see a change in it over the next few years, I think. Once people are allowed to choose channels on an a la carte basis, TCM will very possibly add an SVOD option. And now, with this technology in place, they’re poised to do just that.

    • Michelle says:

      I wholeheartedly agree! I had to choose a particular cable tier only because I need to have TCM. I don’t want any of the other channels. I would like the “family tier” for the shows my kdis watch, but I’m not going to do both. I’m the one home most of the time, so I get my TCM! I really want to find a way to get only TCM (like you can subscribe to Showtime or HBO). I would happily pay per month for TCM only and get a lower cable tier. Every once in awhile I bug Comcast about this. I would gladly pay TCM to subscribe to their online viewing and skip the tv. Let’s see, $10 a month would be about right. Maybe $20 since it’s pretty much the only channel I watch.

  15. Stu says:

    Was totally excited about this….but I want to watch TCM when I am away from home and I think you must be (in my case) on your provider’s network. So I have Charter at home and have TCM, but when I am traveling and staying in a hotel I can use the app. Or am I wrong?

    • willmckinley says:

      Stu – If you cable provider participates, you can use the Watch TCM app ANYWHERE. You don’t have to be in your “home network.” You don’t even have to be in your home state. As long as you sign in with your username and pw, you can watch the app anywhere you get wifi (for the iPad app) or even cellular service (for the iPhone app).

      • PJ says:

        As a follow up, I thought it would be great to use the apple iPad HDMI adapter to plug into a TV while on vacation or wherever I might be where TCM isn’t available. I tested it at home and only the sound comes thru the TV. Any idea if this is possible with an iPad for TCM? It works with other apps but I haven’t figured out the TCM/iPad/TV combination that will pitch both picture and sound to the TV. But regardless, it works beautifully on the iPad.

      • willmckinley says:

        PJ – TCM doesn’t want you to do what you’re trying to do. They don’t want you to be able to access their content on a TV set through any other means but the signal provided by your cable or satellite provider. As such, it’s very possible that they’ve programmed something into the feed that will prevent it from properly playing via an export from the iPad.

      • PJ says:

        I thought that might be the case. The TCM app does work, however, through my laptop to TV. It’s just that the iPad is more convenient because its always on and with me. Plus, it’s time to update the laptop and I didn’t really want to spend the money since I use it so seldom anymore. Thanks for the follow up.

      • Jandy says:

        Why not, though? The cable company still gets your money every month whether you watch TCM via cable on your TV or via your iPad on a TV. The only difference is the iPad has the TCM On Demand capability and is portable. So it’s better for you, and the exact same for the cable company, right? Cable companies and their backwards desire to keep you mired within the limitations of old technology are totally frustrating and inexplicable to me.

  16. Stu says:

    meant to say “can’t” use the app

  17. Stu says:

    Thanks. This is what I thought. I have the app on my ipad but when I log in with my Charter username and password it keeps telling me that one of them is invalid.

    Charter is listed as one of the available networks on the TCM application. But when I go to the Charter page it only lists TBS, CNN TNT, CN, Tru and Adult Swim” as the available mobile content.

    I be confused. I have TCM at home (Charter).

    Any help is appreciated.

  18. Stu says:

    According to the Charter Page on mobile apps
    they only offer ESPN, USA, TRU, CNN (24 in total) and TCM is not one of the mobile choices.
    It seems silly that the TCM app lists Charter as one of the sources for TCM but Charter does not actually offer TCM to mobile users. Or am I mistaken?

  19. willmckinley says:

    If your user name and password comes up as invalid, that likely means that one of them is incorrect. You may be able to reset your password on the Charter log in page.

  20. Stu says:

    okay…..but I know my username and password are in fact correct because I can log into my Charter account using the username and password.

    I give up….. some things are just do damn hard….

    Thank Will for trying to help.

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  22. Glen says:

    I got error messages when trying to log in with my charter username/password/zipcode.
    Then got the charter login page inside the watchTCM login box (really tiny), and successfully logged in to charter using same exact info. But that login didn’t affect the watchTCM app. Once again charter fails! If anyone has worked through this problem please help!

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  25. Stuart says:

    Hey all! The TCM app was working fine for me since March 2014. Wife was VERY happy. It stopped working this Saturday (17 May) for some reason. We travel and work away from home and have to use a VPN for a US IP address (Strong VPN) to make it work on her iPad mini. There is no technical support for the TCM app. Great service when it works but heaven help you if it doesn’t. Charter Communications was no help at all. I spent an hour with the tech support from Strong VPN trying to figure out . Wife is devastated. Seriously. She almost bought a full size iPad last week to improve the viewing experience. Glad she didn’t.

  26. Chelsea says:

    Same thing happened to me too! Please share if you find a solution.

  27. Doris says:

    Love the app but hate the fact that I can’t use it in my tv either is Apple TV or by using hdmi cables. Also there is no longer tcm on demand on my tv.

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  29. Marty Anderson says:

    It stinks that cord cutters can’t access TCM. We are tired of paying ridiculous amounts of money and bring high jacked by cable providers to have access to 2/3 channels. Can’t TCM provide a pay per view service directly to its fans????

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  36. Jason says:

    Well, that’s all well and good, but I can no longer stream on my computer or iPhone TCM since Verizon informed me that TCM no longer uses Verizon as their platform. For years I enjoyed TCM stream and then it just stopped. Would not accept my Verizon password. When I spoke to Verizon representative that’s the explanation they gave me.

  37. montyawn@gmail.com says:

    Hey all! I gave up on the Charter app a few years ago as it never worked well (if at all). Then I found “Sling TV” and my wife watched HGTV non-stop. Sling added TCM a few months ago ($5/month + $20/month = $25/month) and it works like a champ! Its an option and cheaper than basic cable. I’m not shilling for Sling….just want to share.

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