The year is 1986, eight years before the phrase “Turner Classic Movies” would be on anybody’s lips. Ted Turner purchases the Metro Goldwyn Mayer film studio from a man named Kerk Kerkorian for a whopping $1.5 billion – you know, as one does – but this extravagant purchase, unfortunately, is short lived. Once concerns regarding the corporate debt of Turner Entertainment come to light, Turner is forced to sell the studio back to Kerkorian under a year of initially acquiring it.
This could have been an embarrassingly short story for Mr. Ted Turner, if it weren’t for one crucial detail in the initial contract of sale. It was specified that, no matter what happens, Turner Entertainment was to retain all rights to MGM’s catalog of movies. This is the film library that, along with the already sprawling list of movies Turner previously owned the rights to, ultimately, served as the basis for Turner Classic Movies when it finally did launch, on April 14th, 1994.
When you think about it, the story behind TCM almost sounds like the plot of a movie that you would see on TCM, doesn’t it? A scrappy film entrepreneur risks it all on a dream, nearly fails, but eventually overcomes his struggle to achieves more than he ever could have dreamed of? Just saying … I’d watch that movie (Teddy boy, let’s do lunch soon, I think we have some business to discuss).
Thankfully, Ted Turner’s dream of TCM came to fruition in the end. This is the sole reason that, for nearly 30 years now, we have had a reliable source for watching classic movies on TV. And, nowadays, there is an even more reliable way to enjoy TCM’s top-notch content, thanks to one of the best movie streaming sites on the web, Watch TCM.
I admire Watch TCM for breaking with convention in their site design. I cannot tell you how many streaming sites that I see every day, each one looking identical to the next. It’s rare that you find a site to stream movies on that stands out from the rest, makes itself memorable in some way. This is precisely what Watch TCM manages to do, though,
Honestly, at first glance, this looks more like a classy journalistic outlet than it does a movie streaming site. Maybe it’s the black and white theme that is tricking my eye. Or maybe it’s the fact that the featured movies on Watch TCM are presented almost in the same layout popular with news sites. Whereas the majority of movie streaming sites simply split content into a series of side-scrolling menus, separated by genre, Watch TCM offers some variation.
This is refreshing, to say the least – a movie streaming site that strives to do something different when movie streaming sites are becoming increasingly uniform by the day. But it means nothing unless it is also as effective as the albeit monotonous layout of the best movie streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and the rest. I would go as far as to say that Watch TCM’s site design is almost as effective.
The thing that I don’t love about it is that it requires a little more clicking around than some of the other big movie streamers. For instance, by not simply providing as much content as possible on the main page of the site like Netflix does, you are simply given a limited number of titles to browse based on just a single criterion: Recently Added. In order to browse more than the 20 movies featured here, you will, by design, have to click into a new page. This is not quite as streamlined or user-friendly as the more typical layouts of most of the best movie streaming sites on the web.
One thing that Watch TCM does have going for it, though, is simplicity. Once you do click into the page on which all films can be browsed, you will be met with 2 options for filtering results. Select a genre of choice from one dropdown menu at the top of the page; select how you want your results ordered from a dropdown menu immediately to the right. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. My only complaint here is that you can only select 1 genre at a time.
This would have been a much more effective browsing mechanism if it enabled you to select multiple simultaneously. Sometimes you aren’t just in the mood for one specific thing, you know what I mean? Maybe, for instance, I could go for either a noir film or a western. The site’s browsing feature should make it possible for me to filter out both of these genres at the same time.
Content and Features
Speaking of simplicity, this seems to be the philosophy behind TCM writ large. The features here are also quite minimal (to put it kindly). Many of the best movie streaming sites, to contrast, will let users add titles to watch lists, comment on movies, rate them, etc. This doesn’t appear to be the case here. Now, this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for me when it comes to movie streaming sites, but it seems as if these kinds of social features would be particularly beneficial on a site like Watch TCM.
I say this because of the niche nature of the content that Watch TCM offers. It’s right in the name: “Classic Movies.” It stands to reason that people would like to have a means by which to discuss these classics, as they are ripe for nostalgia and discourse.
Watch TCM offers a simple service: stream classic movies, and that’s that. Maybe this doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. If so, feel free to disregard what I’m saying here … one thing remains undebatable, though: Watch TCM has one of the largest libraries of classic movies to stream on the web today. If that’s all that matters to you, a huge selection of timeless movies, then Watch TCM can definitely be called one of the best movie streaming sites on the market, without a doubt. From romance to war, from crime to sci-fi, there is a little something for every lover of classic cinema to be found here.
Watch TCM doesn’t just let you stream some of the best movies ever made on-demand, though. If you are a traditional cable customer, you can also watch along live online. Just click on “Watch Live,” choose your time zone, and – voila! – tune into whatever movie happens to be airing at the moment. Watch TCM is the rare movie streaming site that also comes with the perks of live television – the best of both worlds.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
Some more good news: thanks to Watch TCM’s dedicated mobile apps for Andoid and iOS, fans of Watch TCM can watch TCM no matter where they happen to be. Whether you want to catch a flick live while commuting home from work or watch a timeless classic on-demand while in line at the DMV, the Watch TCM app has your back.
As far as movie streaming apps are concerned, I think that this one performs about at the same level as the site itself. It’s not the best movie streaming app that I have ever seen, but it also isn’t the worst. I have a similar complaint with the app as I do with the site … it’s just a little clunkier and harder to navigate than it needs to be. But it gets the job done, nonetheless.
The mediocrity of this app seems to be something that many are in agreement about. On the Apple App Store, for instance, Watch TCM has an average user rating of 3.9. Once again, not stellar, not terrible.
Pricings and Plans
Unfortunately, there is no way to subscribe to Watch TCM on its own. In order to use both the movie streaming site and the app, you have to be a traditional cable customer. In other words, you have to already have access to TCM via old-school cable in order to access TCM online. Even though this is incredibly annoying, it is far from uncommon – most cable networks go about their streaming sites this way. Unless, that is, they take the leap and create their own standalone streaming service, a la NBC’s Peacock (but this is very rare).