Recently, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) launched a movie trivia app for iOS devices. While this is not their first mobile app, it is the first designed to be used outside of Los Angeles – previous two apps were specifically for the TCM Film Festival and a tour of Hollywood.
The app itself is quite attractive and very easy to navigate. It also extends beyond simple trivia questions by offering a variety of other types ranging from audio, blurred photos, sequential ordering, and word scrambles. The app is freemium style with several base quizzes available at no charge plus an option to purchase additional quiz categories. Users can associate their Facebook and Twitter accounts to share their scores and it is Apple Game Center connected for leader boards and challenges with other friends on the network.
Personally, I am a TCM fan and casual classic film viewer, but this app is geared toward the hardcore fan with a deep knowledge base. I thought I would fare better, but quickly found myself struggling to score any points. I’m surprised the app is iOS only and perhaps other versions will be rolling out in the future. Given the niche demographic, an Android and especially a Facebook canvas app version would seem like logical fits. Outside of the game itself, the app offers no utility functionality with regard to TCM programming. There are banner ads to the TCM online store and website to help drive additional traffic to those network properties though.
So what else is TCM doing digitally to encourage discovery, promote social sharing, and enhance the viewing experience? The TCM website offers fans a wealth of content including clips, blogs, and more. In recent years, the network has expanded their on-air hosting to include regulars like Drew Barrymore and Bill Hader in an effort to appeal to younger audiences.
Their Guest Programmer series roster offers an extensive list of entertainers including Conan O’Brien, Michael J. Fox, and Raquel Welch. The website and on-air content are great at expanding the discovery of films to existing fans, but without amplification efforts it will do little to bring in new ones. With so much behind the scenes information and historical content available surrounding the films TCM airs, a synced content experience on the web and in app form would be an ideal way to bridge the connections between classic and modern day cinema. It would also provide additional context for both new and lifelong classic movie fans to expand their education and appreciation for those involved in making these films.
TCM does actively manage Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts that are packed with excellent information on programming – along with what looks like an abandoned Pinterest account (which should be an ideal platform for the brand). The content they share is useful for keeping abreast of upcoming movie schedules and events, but is primarily a push channel for TCM information rather than being used to drive social conversation. Most of what would fall under the “social TV” umbrella with real time commentary about programming isn’t driven by the network at all. Twitter fan groups like TCM Party host nightly chats centered around the #TCMParty hashtag where classic movie fans can converse. I’ve participated in several of these myself and they draw a wide variety of participants from casual fans to critics and even screen actors.
TCM sporadically uses GetGlue stickers to help drive awareness and reward viewers, but these are usually limited to tent-pole events like 31 Days of Oscar and the TCM Classic Film Festival. Regular year-round use of GetGlue and experimenting with other 3rd party apps would be useful to help expose programming to a wider audience and assist with social discovery. Finding a way to expand and leverage the regular hosts and guest programmers in both social and second screen viewing platforms would do wonders to increase both the social conversation and discovery of TCM programming as well.
According to the TCM site, they are planning on the launch of a new app this summer to allow for mobile streaming (cable authentication required), scheduling, and movie background information. There does not appear to be any mention of synced content or extensive social functionality although I’m sure at least some basic elements of the latter will be included.
Of all the Turner Entertainment brands, TCM has the greatest potential to leverage their access to Hollywood talent coupled with enhanced technology to appeal and attract a wider viewing audience. By relating their extensive and incredible film line-up to the influence and correlations they have with modern day cinema, TCM will help shift the perception that many feel about older films and toward the network itself. This minor change in the viewing audience paradigm, even at a small level, should produce significant increases in both social conversation and ratings for the network.