Update #2: TCM Dives into Streaming with Amazon

23632_006_2945.jpgUpdated 1/19/16 -New info in italics

The experience of watching classic films on television is about to radically change for the better – but only for some.

Turner Classic Movies announced today that they’ll make their popular Watch TCM streaming app available for the first time ever on TV sets this fall, offering viewers “on-demand access to TCM’s curated content presented uncut and commercial free,” along with the on-air introductions by hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. The app, which launched in November of 2013 and offers hundreds of movies on-demand each month as well as two linear 24/7 programming feeds, was previously only available on the TCM website and mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and the Amazon Kindle.

But, like with everything in life, there are a few catches.

The ability to view Watch TCM content on television (in the U.S. and Canada) will only be available via the Amazon Fire TV, the second-best-selling, full-featured streaming media player on the market. (It’s less popular than Roku, but more so than the currently available version of Apple TV). And the Watch TCM App for Amazon Fire TV will only be available to current cable or satellite subscribers who already get TCM as part of their bundle of channels – and whose provider supports the app. My condolences to the nearly 12 million Time Warner Cable customers in TCM’s universe of 85 million homes, because you’re likely still out of luck – at least until the proposed merger with Charter Communications. (Charter supports the app for their current customers, but there’s no word if newly acquired TWC subs will be included in that deal.)

So let’s take a breath here.

I know many viewers are waiting for TCM to be available via subscription, without the requirement to pay for other channels you don’t watch. This is not that. (TCM is available via Sling TV as part of a so-called “skinny bundle” of channels at $25 per-month, which I wrote about here.)

EstherI also know that many classic film fans have not yet taken the plunge into the world of on-line streaming yet. Well, put on your floaties Esther Williams fans, because The Future is here.

Picture this: you turn on TCM and a movie you don’t like is on (which some with specific definitions of “classic” say is happening more frequently). With the touch of a button, you have on-demand access to just about everything that’s aired on TCM for the last seven days – on your TV. (At this writing, that’s 83 movies and 11 short subjects.) Feel like watching that rare film noir that aired at 6 a.m.? Here you go. Frustrated because you didn’t DVR – or, God help us, videotape – the Bob’s Picks selections that aired Friday night? Watch them whenever you like, with host Robert Osborne’s introductions.

NOW how much would you pay?

Answer – if you already have an Amazon Fire TV streaming player: ZERO. This functionality will cost you nothing more than you’re already paying your cable or satellite provider. If you don’t, it will cost you $39 – the price of an Amazon Fire TV streaming stick. Plug it in to your TV, and you’re off to A DAY AT THE RACES (assuming that aired on TCM in the last week, and that you’re a Marx Bros. fan).

The first generation Amazon Fire TV streaming player is currently sold out pretty much everywhere. But who cares? The Fire TV Stick has essentially the same functionality – including voice search – and it plugs directly into the HDMI port on your TV, so you don’t have to bother with another cord. And you get access to more than 1,600 channels, games, and apps including the biggies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon (duh). But you don’t have to subscribe to any of them if you don’t want to, nor does Amazon Fire TV require any sort of a subscription. You pay for it once and you’re done.

Updated 9/17/15 – Amazon announced the second generation Amazon Fire TV streaming media player, available October 5 at $99. A second gen Fire TV Stick (now with voice search via an included remote control) will also be released on October 22 for $49 – $10 more than the current model. As of this writing, the first generation Stick remains available for $39. 

The Watch TCM App for Amazon Fire TV will make TCM “the first network in the Turner Broadcasting portfolio to be available” via a native, TV Everywhere app on Amazon. There’s no indication from the network that this arrangement is an exclusive, however. 

In short (no jokes about my wordiness, please), the ability to view TCM’s brilliantly curated content on TV outside of the boundaries of the traditional channel is a huge development if you love great movies of any era. While most cable and satellite providers currently offer TCM On-Demand offerings, they are usually limited to a handful of films, and all my efforts to jury rig the Watch TCM mobile app to play on my TV set have been abject failures.

“I abject!” — Chico Marx, DUCK SOUP (1933)

Finally, as part of TCM’s Let’s Movie branding initiative, the network has launched the TCM Emoji Keyboard app, offering emojis, virtual stickers and animated GIFs for use on mobile devices. (If you don’t know what an “emoji” is, you’re probably not the target for this.) You can download the app for iOS or Android devices here. I’m going to avoid the GIFs because they make me anxious, but the emojis are cool, and include familiar faces like Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from GHOSTBUSTERS, which somebody will probably complain about because it’s not “classic.”

Updated 1/19/16 – Multichannel News columnist Jeff Baumgartner reports that Amazon and TCM are still “working out some of the technical aspects” of Watch TCM on Amazon Fire TV, which may explain the delay in launch. No word yet on when it will go live. Thanks to reader “What in the World?” for this update. 

For my review of TCM’s streaming presence on Sling TV, click here.

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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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59 Responses to Update #2: TCM Dives into Streaming with Amazon

  1. This is a good start! Since I only own a Roku, I’m disappointed not to get TCM as an option on that device, but I am sure that Amazon, with its push to getting into programming and streaming more, paid a premium to get access to TCM’s audience. From what I’ve observed of my fellow TCM fans, they are:

    1. vocal about what they like, including broadcasting their TCM fandom on social media.
    2. willing to spend money if they can for TCM experiences.
    3. wanting to watch as many movies as possible all the time!

    I can see why Amazon wants to lure them to its services.

  2. Sheila says:

    Thats great finally, with TCM the best channel on cable for sure. I ready have the TCM app on my phone, and on my tablet I love it. Im also in the processing of moving soon to my new apartment and that will be the first thing on my list the TCM channel. Thanks TCM!!!

  3. Lesley says:

    Thanks very much Will for all that exellent info, some of which I actually managed to process. One of the things I hate about living in the future is how the change never stops—you have to be agile and always ready to make the next move to the next thing (“the clue to the new direction,” as they say in A Hard Day’s Night). But at this point I at least have Watch TCM via my Charter Cable. The very same Charter Cable I am hoping to ditch at the first opportunity ’cause it’s ‘spensive! Apparently that day has not arrived, so it looks like all I need to do is get the Amazon Fire Stick so I can have Watch TCM on my TV.

    Still, in the long run, I’m probably looking to get a digital antenna and cobble together Sling and a few other options that will run me less than the fortune I’m now spending for 1,000 channels, of which I watch perhaps 20 on a regular basis. Thank you for the updates, they’re very helpful…

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks Lesley. I try to keep this stuff super simple (without talking down to anyone) because I know people are sometimes intimidated/confused/fed up with all the technological stuff.

    • Dan says:

      Lesley, you have written so perfectly what so many of us out here are experiencing. Especially about the 1,000 channels………………!

  4. Cecilia Rodriguez says:

    To be able to stream anything that came on TCM in the past week is well worth the cost of an Amazon Fire stick. You made me giggle with the “I abject” quote from Chico. I appreciate that!

  5. Matt says:

    Is there any estimate on when this fall it will be available? A date perhaps?

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  7. John says:

    I wish TCM would drop their ridiculous policy of still requiring a cable/sat subscription to watch TCM online.If i had a cable/sat sub there’d be no need or reason to watch online.
    Wake up TCM.Drop the “exclusive carriage rights agreement” you sign with the cable/sat cabal.Make your own streaming app,offer it at a decent price point that anybody can afford,and make it available to other streaming devices(eg; Roku) and drop that STUPID and OUTDATED tv provider authentication requirement.Please don’t continue to cling to the past by agreeing to do everything the cable/sat cos.demand.

    • Good point John. I’m hoping CBS’ All Access app + subscription is the model for the future. Doesn’t cut the “cable” style price in the end since 10 of these channels at $6 to $10 each will run you the same as cable, but I think we’ll all appreciate the flexibility of that much a la carte choice. Amazon has aggregation plans too from the sound of things.

    • Judy says:

      Yes yes yes. I totally agree. My husband and I have cut the cable cord this week and purchased a streaming device -Stealth tv box. I really love it BUT there’s no TCM so of course I’m having withdraws. Maybe I’ll looking into the Amazon Fire stick for my other tvs.

    • Ron Gierchak says:

      I totally agree! I don’t have a 60″ TV to watch TCM movies on my tiny IPad! Also, I pay extra for DVR service and already record upcoming TCM films to watch later. I would gladly pay extra for a TCM app for smart tv streaming that would include ALL the TCM content and not just the stupid last seven days. I don’t even see the point of their current app unless maybe you were on a plane or something. I’m already close to cord cutting my satellite service due to expense and hundreds of lame channels that I could watch on all the other mediocre apps like Hulu, (tired) Netflix, and (glitchy) Amazon Streaming. At least TCM has content you won’t see on all the other streaming apps. But I will sadly say good by to TCM if they continue their exclusive link to cable/satellite providers. Also, my beef with all the other major tv streaming apps is their content is all the same and filled with tired retreads or ho-hum movies we have all seen 100 times. There are so many gem films that seem to be lost in all the top 40 bland selections on current tv apps. This same thing happened when DVD replaced VHS. Tons of great films from the last 40-50 years simply disappeared because they weren’t in the top 10 of their era and thereby didn’t warrant converting to DVD. We are fast approaching a Walmart selection of dismal, boring, or over watched content rather than expanding and searching out these lost treasures. I can’t even believe you can’t stream full episodes of say The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour, Perry Mason and lots more!

    • Nathan Hale says:

      John,
      You state my point of view, exactly. TCM, please offer via ROKU for a monthly fee w/o tv subscription!

    • Susan Tipton says:

      Totally agree- what is the benefit of getting TCM on Amazon Firestick if I still have to pay for the bundle of things I don’t want. Hoped I could just subscribe to TCM like I do Acorn TV

      • Terry Horton says:

        I broke down and now spend $25 to get TCM via Sling TV “Sling Orange” + “Hollywood Extras”. Includes an on-demand service for recent TCM movies (which I really like) and 34-35 other channels which I never use (but you might). Works on Roku and Amazon Firestick.

        Given how much I love and use TCM, $25 was well worth it.

      • Susan Tipton says:

        Pretty much decided to do that, thanks

  8. Rich says:

    John, I must say you hit the bullseye dead center! If TCM is smart and wants to reach the largest possible audience then they need to drop the cable requirement and make their programming available for a reasonable fee which we would gladly pay! I’m certain there are millions of “cord cutters” who really want TCM programming but have dropped cable and it’s long list of channels we never watch (yet still have to pay for) just to get TCM. We may want to go back in time for great entertainment but we want to use today’s technology to get that entertainment on our tv without being required to have a cable subscription. Come on TCM, you can still celebrate the past but it’s time to embrace the future!

  9. anotherguy says:

    I bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick over the weekend, but when I checked on Amazon Watch TCM isn’t available for Fire TV yet. Has anyone heard anything about when it is coming? Thanks.

    • Was thinking the same thing. Came across Will’s article this morning and dug my Fire TV out of my box of “stuff to post on eBay”, updated the firmware, and searched for the app. Still nothing now nearly 3 months after the announcement. Guessing its close, sure hope so.

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  11. Teena Marie Phillips says:

    Why isn’t there a link to this on TCM site? Everyone wants TCM but to cut the $3,747.24 cost of 2015 FIOS internet 19. land line 33. cell 85. tv 135. tax & fees 42. White collar theft.
    $37 THOUSAND EVERY 10 YEARS.
    In 2020 or was it 2030, 50% of America will be 65, and WE all want REAL stories-not vampires and PBS. 1942 (3 yrs before me) was the best. I live 19 miles from The White House but no tower within 70 miles? Have the Omni-directional antenna, Prime, Stick, Fire TV, router.
    Just waiting to cut the land line, the cable, move the cell, move the internet. I’m 70.
    $8. a month or $100. year and I’m yours for life.!
    $100. yr x 85 million customers = $8.5 BILLION PER YEAR…..do it

  12. Me says:

    Has TCM done away with the host intros on the app, I dont see them on my Iphone anymore?

  13. willmckinley says:

    Try THE STING and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY last night.

    • Me says:

      I see it now, but they’ve kind of hid them away. I guess they’re not putting the host introductions up for the TCM import movies anymore.

  14. MLC says:

    TCM, WHEN will you provide online streaming without a cable subscription? So many people have asked and demanded. I do not want the high-priced cable tier with 99% of channels I never watch just to get TCM. I downgraded to the lowest tier of cable and got a Roku, but the choice of vintage movies is terrible. I will gladly dump one of my streaming subscriptions and/or pay for a TCM subscription!! Same goes for BBC. I would gladly pay for a BBC subscription if they would offer it.

  15. jefflrfe says:

    TCM On Demand has been offering fewer and fewer titles over the past several nights — this evening it’s down to FOUR! If they don’t restore the number of On Demand titles, I’m ditching Sling TV.

    Do you happen to know if this is temporary? Looks like I’ll be going back to Warner Archive Instant and a bunch of Hi-Def transfers of those visually sophisticated Bowery Boys movies…

    • willmckinley says:

      I have noticed this too. Another reason to prefer Sling, where almost everything from the last week is available at any time.

      • jefflrfe says:

        Sorry, I was unclear. I don’t have cable — I was referring not to “On Demand” cable titles, but the “Available Now” titles on TCM on Sling TV, which currently number FOUR!

        I got Sling TV for TCM “Available Now.” If this continues, I’ll spend ten bucks on Warner Archive, and SAVE the twenty-five bucks that I’m paying for my (now pretty useless) Sling TV.

    • Ron Gierchak says:

      Who cares if it’s four titles or ten? Either way it is rediculous that you can’t have the entire TCM archive on demand on an app for tv. When my contract expires with satellite I’m going to switch to antenna for local channels and tv apps for other content. TCM needs to drop there stupid connection with cable/satellite providers and have a stand alone tv app with a monthly fee. I love TCM but I can’t continue to justify $115 dollars a month for the mediocre and overlapped channels anymore. I have amassesed a large DVD collection of classic films I love and can watch them in higher quality than regular tv anyway. I even complained of a distracting thin silver banner along the top of my TCM channel and was told by my provider it was broadcast that way by TCM and could not be eliminated. I’ll just buy more titles on Amazon and save my $1350 yearly for lousy tv content, DVR service, and cumbersome equipment I’m forced to rent.

      • Ron Gierchak says:

        One more note- we can’t complain to TCM directly because they cleverly don’t take emails from fans. They force you to call or write a physical letter which hardly anyone will do. Even if the WATCH TCM app was available on my smart tv without buying another stupid device like Amazon Fire it still has such limited content that it doesn’t interest me in the least.

  16. willmckinley says:

    Whoa. That just changed. That better be temporary…

  17. Sandy Hicks says:

    April 18 2016–Based on this article I purchased an AMAZON FIRE Stick. Just set it up and found that there is no Watch TCM app on it. WHAT THE HELL??? willmckinley shouldn’t you UPDATE your article to let people know there is no such app on this device? Now I have to waste time wrapping it up and returning it as it’s totally worthless to me without that APP (I’m a Time Warner customer so never will be able to use the app on any device)

    • Ron Gierchak says:

      So if you buy yet another streaming device which has 99% of the same apps as my smart tv, roku, and applie tv then I can stream the TCM content available only in the last week? No thanks

      • jefflrfe says:

        Don’t sell the last week short — currently there are about 100 (I stopped counting) wildly varied titles on offer, and always something to watch. The selections change almost daily.

    • willmckinley says:

      It launched the day after you posted this comment. Hopefully you didn’t waste time “wrapping it up and returning it.”

  18. John Hickman says:

    Watch TCM for Amazon Fire TV became available yesterday (4-19-16), but I still have a problem. Like I thought,you have to have a cable subscription with one of the listed cable systems. But unfortunately for me, Charter isn’t one of the systems listed yet, even though several other smaller local systems in my area are, so I still can’t get it. It really doesn’t make sense because the versions for PC and Android phones do list Charter. Hopefully this is a short term problem, but I won’t be surprised if it drags out like having to wait for the app has.

    • willmckinley says:

      I said very clearly in the article that this will only be available to cable and satellite subscribers. I suspect some of the delay in launching had to do w/ negotiating w/ providers, which seems to have failed in the case of Comcast and Charter. (At least for now.)

      • anotherguy says:

        Comcast has been added as an available system, but Charter still isn’t on the list. 😦

  19. anotherguy says:

    I also meant to add that according to the Watch TCM activation page it should be coming soon to Roku. I just hope the “soon” for Roku doesn’t take as long as it did for Amazon (7 months), and that it will be available for Charter by then.

  20. Terry Horton says:

    Never going to subscribe to TCM streaming so long as it’s tied to a cable description. HBO is now available on Roku without a cable/sat subscription. When will TCM’s producers catch on to how much money they’re losing from those us permanently finished with cable?

    • Teena Marie Phillips says:

      Agree 100%. My cable is $185. mo. Won’t leave till I can get TCM.
      $100. yr x 85M TCM customers = $8.5B what’s the problem?

    • Teena Marie Phillips says:

      The problem HAS to be TCM OWNS some cable/sat providers and they don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot.

      • willmckinley says:

        TCM owns no cable or satellite providers. TCM is owned by Time Warner, the previous owner of Time Warner Cable, but the cable division was spun off 7 years ago and has subsequently been sold to Charter Communications.

  21. Deborah says:

    Never subscribe to cable ever again! These companies stick together and the greediest ones think they will win, but we will not give in no matter how much they think they are fooling us.
    So being billionaires won’t get you to heaven. When you have that much you are to be helping the people not stealing from them, which ever way you scheme up!

  22. Sophie says:

    sorry I really don’t understand…is there any way to watch TCM on my macbook without cable? can I buy whatever firestick devices or pad from amazon & get it that way?

  23. Ron Gierchak says:

    When I check out the Criterion collection currently on Hulu it’s a bunch of Asian films with sub titles lve
    never heard of. Plus some of the films on Criterion leave me scratching my head while so many obvious classics are missing- like the original, tv version of A Christmas Memory which won an Emmy for Geraldine Page and is narrated by Truman Capote (the author). ABC lost the negative and it hasn’t been on tv in over 20 years! Why won’t Criterion find and restore this lost important film? Criterion leaves a lot to be desired even if they DO team up with TCM for the Filmstruck app.

  24. Comcast-captive says:

    Still no luck with Comcast.

  25. Elsa says:

    Any update on when Amazon will stream TCM, Will? Been waiting so long for this!

  26. Danny says:

    So far I do not see comcast as an added provider. Is this in the works? Why are the available providers different than they are for the mobile/iPad app?

  27. anotherguy says:

    Charter is still not listed as a provider either. I can get Watch TCM through Charter on my Windows PCs and Android phones, so I definitely think the problem is between Amazon and Charter and probably Comcast as well. Since my last post I’ve set a computer up onto my TV so I can watch it that way and it works great.

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