HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 14: (L-R) Special Guest Frank Darabont and TCM Primetime Host Ben Mankiewicz speak onstage at the screening of 'The Shawshank Redemption' at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM

Comcast bumps TCM off basic subscription package, outraging fans

Originally posted Monday, October 14, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Comcast/Xfinity on October 10 bumped Atlanta-based Turner Classic Movies off its basic subscription package, requiring subscribers to pay for a much higher tier to access it.

TCM has been part of Comcast’s basic cable package with the likes of HGTV, TLC and CNN for many years. Complaints have flooded the Xfinity customer forums after the move was made.

The network was moved to a pricey niche “Sports Entertainment Package.” The package, according to Comcast, “has movies, shows, and sports coverage from networks including NFL RedZone, CMT, CBS Sports Network, ESPN Goal Line & Bases Loaded, Military History Channel, Outdoor Channel, MLB Network, Turner Classic Movies, and more.” Based on that description, the package seems heavily focused on sports, not exactly a match with the TCM audience. 

For anyone who is on a 140+ channel tier, Comcast will add the “Sports Entertainment Package” for $9.99 more a month. Those on the basic cable  and economy packages do not qualify. You’d have to jump at least to the “starter” package to even qualify to get TCM at that extra price. (The rates vary depending on where you live and what deals Comcast is offering in a particular area at a particular time.)

TCM is commercial free and offers movies mostly from the 1930s to 1960s though it will delve into silent films and the occasional recent movie. Its fans are loyal and the brand recently celebrated its 25th anniversary at its annual film festival

Known still by many as Turner Classic Movies, the network remains on most basic channel options on rival services where it has been since its launch in 1994. 

Here is Comcast’s explanation for the move: 

“Every month, Comcast pays programmers like networks, local TV station owners and others, for the ability to bring their programming to you. We regularly review our programming and sometimes make changes to ensure we’re offering a wide variety of programming at the best value. We look at a variety of factors, including customer viewership and programming costs when making these decisions. Viewership of TCM is low, as over 90% of our customers watch less than two movies per month. Given this and contractual limitations on offering TCM a la carte, we decided to move TCM to the Sports Entertainment Package, which will help us manage programming costs that are passed on to our customers while continuing to make the channel available to those who want to watch it.”

An irate Mary Brannan sent me this email this morning:

Thanks for your article on TCM and Comcast. I was angry enough over the move that I did "cut the cable." This move was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Periodically, I would find a favorite channel removed and placed in a higher price bracket. If more customers would carry through with their threats to drop Comcast TV, I think we'd find a different attitude in Comcast. Oh, did I mention I have been a faithful Comcast customer for the past 8 years. This morning when I went to Comcast's Community Forum to add a similar statement, I found the TCM thread was locked. Comcast not only closes its ears, but eyes as well. I predict they will eventually go down the drain.

Here is a standard complaint about the move on the Xfinity board from drturndorf:

I am livid over this shift. I don't watch TV. The only thing I do watch is TCM.

 

Having the TCM channel bundled with a premium sports package makes no sense. I don't watch sports, and lumping the two channels together forces me to pay for programming I don't want or watch. Comcast is like Jessie James, without a visible gun, holding the customer hostage. I'm thinking of dumping my Comcast TV service altogether. 

TCM has provided this list of other provides where you can access the network at lower cost, including Dish, DirecTV, Hulu, Sling and YouTubeTV. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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