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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Turner Classic Movies Unveils New Look And New Slogan

Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the most popular channel destination for uncut, commercial-free classic films available twenty-four hours a day, has unveiled a new network logo. After 27 years of having a well-established look that has firmly set the tone and mood for the staton's "old movie" identity, TCM has decided to update their look and introduce a fresh slogan. By all appearances, the idea seems to be to establish an identity that appeases the dedicated fans while simultaneously appealing to a newer, younger audience. Only time will tell the extent of the success. Personally, I'm a bit torn.

I want to establish that I am a huge fan of TCM and classic films specifically.

I've been a dedicated viewer of the station since its launch in 1994, I've attended every TCM Film Festival since it's inaugural year of 2009, and I was even a TCM Backlot Guest Programmer in November of 2019. I am a very devoted fan. So, I don't say it lightly when I express my opinion that I don't think a new logo and slogan is going to accomplish much except to annoy established fans. And regardless of a new stage look for the on-air hosts (Ben Mankiewicz and the rest), the announcement of "exciting" changes seems more like an attempt at an explanation about renovations, while trying to lure new blood with the promise of being up to date and modern.

The change is, and I quote, "intended to reflect the evolution in the way modern audiences engage with classic movies". And the new tagline, “Where Then Meets Now” is meant to (again, I quote) "further establishes the network as the destination and catalyst for reframing the conversation around 20th century films for the 21st century". Never mind the fact that a few years back I established a very similar sounding slogan ("Now and Then"), the language in the press release sounds a bit grand and slightly round about. What's going on is that the channel wants to be relevant to classic film fans of all ages. And whereas the station has a strong older audience for the films of yesteryear, there has always been a bit of a struggle to attract a significant number of younger viewers. I feel the same pain every spring when I teach a history of cinema class to college age students. Although the class is often full with a maximum of a hundred students, it's a tough sell. The 18-22 (or so) year-olds want to get credit for watching movies, but very few embrace black and white films let alone anything made before the 1980s.

TCM also describes the new "vibrant brand" as having "an eye toward the future" with a "bold new energy" for "today’s audience” in a "dynamic creative packaging". It all sounds like words from an ad agency's various pitches to a potential client. It seems like TCM is trying too hard to convince journalists, bloggers, and other media entities, that this is an exciting and innovative event. However, I believe they're over doing it when they use sentences like, "The new logo focuses on the energy of the C in TCM." What is that even suppose to mean, "the energy of the C"? And notice, there is a 'c' within the 'C'. This is suppose to represent the four key 'C's of the brand, curation, context, connection, and culture. Four? Then why are there only two? Even with the blank outline between the two darkened "C"s that still only makes three. And I'm not a big fan of this little promotional release gem, "For the overall creative conceit, the network went back in time, using the vibrant tones of the original Technicolor spectrum to frame and elevate the black and white imagery of classic films." Wow.

For the "sonic" identity (?), the network collaborated with Made Music Studio to create a custom sound that will give life to the new and colorful conceit. The TCM ‘song’ is a mash-up of several genres, including pop and the rapture of strings, which is a good nod to iconic Hollywood musicals. Okay. I'm onboard with that creative choice. Other than the description of being a "sonic" identity, it makes a lot of sense to create a sound that represents the evolution and broad dimensions of the audible movie experience. But do we really need to stretch so far as to "reimagine" sets so the network can "lean into the personalities of each host with a more contemporary direction". TCM should be more careful about the words "contemporary direction". That sounds like blasphemy to me.

I recognize that culture morphs, tastes change and new stars are born. TCM is making a wise decision to adjust the bar of the age of what is considered an old classic. They have, after all, remained a constant in the homes of classic movie fans for almost three decades. And their recent expansion to appear as a branded classics hub on HBO Max is very smart. To me, that is a solid way to reach untapped audiences without the possibility of upsetting the audience that's been with them from day one. I know I feel a little miffed about the suggestion that as an already well-established viewer, I may be considered by my beloved station to be old and out of date.

Of course, none of what I have to say really matters. The dye has been cast. I do hope TCM achieves what it planned to do, and captures a more substantial percent of the younger cable network audience. I want them to stay in business after-all, and let's face it, without growth the current group of viewers will literally die off and leave the network to face possible elimination. It doesn't mean my feelings aren't a little hurt by my reliable friend aggressively searching for a younger model.


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