Turner Classic Movies gets pinched by Comcast as streaming fight looms

As traditional media companies prepare to do battle in the world of streaming, the fallout is being felt in the cable TV world.

The country’s largest cable television operator, Comcast, has moved Turner Classic Movies — the advertising-free channel that specializes in vintage films — from the basic cable package to its more costly Sports Entertainment Package, which is also known as More Sports & Entertainment on Comcast’s XFinity. Now if viewers want TCM they have to pay an additional $9.99 for the package of channels which includes TCM.

In an explanation on its web site, Comcast posted its reasoning behind the TCM move:

“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,” Comcast wrote on xfinity.com, “ 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.”

The move is not sitting well with Comcast customers. On xfinity’s community forums dozens voiced displeasure at the move.

“Of course it will cost more, $9.95 more for the Sports and Entertainment package just to get TCM, what a rip-off putting a classic movie channel in with a bunch of sports,” wrote a poster under the name "crowhaven," “I don't watch sports and I'm not paying for a bunch of useless channels to get TCM, Hulu and Netflix is sounding better all the time.”

The theme of cord-cutting and turning to over-the-top services was common in the postings. “I think you seriously need to reconsider this move Comcast.  With cord-cutting becoming more and more common, this is not the thing to do.  This will not help curb it,” wrote "tito752."

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The cord-cutting wars likely loom in the background of the Comcast decision. AT&T through its WarnerMedia division owns TCM. Warner’s is launching the HBO Max streaming service next spring; Comcast will be following suit with Peacock. It is expected that some TCM content will be part of HBO Max, so in the competitive streaming video game these days, helping the opposition is not seen as good business.

Earlier this year, Disney and Netflix parted ways on several Marvel series such as “Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones” after Disney's announcement it would bring streamer Disney+ to consumers. Disney owns Marvel.


The popular sitcom “Friends” which had been a staple on Netflix, is moving to HBO Max. Recently WarnerMedia paid $85 million per year for five years — $425 million total — to land get “Friends” off its future rival. “Friends” was produced and distributed by Warner Bros. Television, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia.