Father-daughter duo finds surprise success with TV channel airing only classics

Nestled in the English countryside is the unlikely headquarters of one of the U.K.’s fastest growing TV channels. Talking Pictures, run by 74-year-old Noel Cronin and his daughter Sarah, airs nothing but classic old TV shows and movies. The content is vintage, and so is the way the channel is put together: Neil builds the broadcast schedule for each day the old fashioned way — by hand, with each movie’s details noted on a paper card.

But if you think looking backwards is bad for business, think again. Talking Pictures has become a huge cult success, reaching millions of viewers across the U.K. The family-run channel launched on linear TV in the U.K. in 2015 and has grown to be one of the biggest independent channels in Britain. About four million people tune in every month, according to the British Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board.

“It’s a channel that is full of nostalgia. It’s all about saving celluloid and film history and TV history,” Sarah told CBS News. But it’s about more than just the retro-programming. “It’s a community as well. You know, everybody that watches us has probably followed our journey and kind of feels part of our story. One big family, we are.”

Noel Cronin pores over an old film reel at his home in England, which is also the headquarters of the independent TV channel he runs with his daughter Sarah, Talking Pictures.

CBS News

Noel and Sarah play movies and TV shows they own the rights to. Noel previously worked in the film industry, where he built up an archive and sold broadcast rights to U.K. channels such as the BBC and ITV. The traditional outlets lost interest in airing classic content, but Noel was convinced there was still an audience out there, so he launched Talking Pictures.

He and Sarah encourage the public to send in material they find laying around, often on old, fragile film reels. Noel hosts a TV show called Footage Detective, where he scours the old reels for bits of cinematic history to share with his growing audience.

On the day CBS News visited the station’s headquarters, Noel let us join in a bit of archival investigation. As the grainy pictures rolled, it quickly became apparent that we uncovered a piece of vintage pornography. 

Noel Cronin and CBS News’ Haley Ott turn back to the pile of old film reels waiting for inspection at the headquarters of Talking Pictures TV, after discovering that the last reel selected for review contained vintage pornography.

CBS News

While that old piece of film may not make it onto Talking Pictures, Noel and Sarah have clearly found a niche audience with a big appetite for the less risqué material they broadcast — an audience that most contemporary channels just don’t seem to be satisfying. 

“Our audience, they don’t want to know about who’s on a beach in a bikini snogging who, you know? What do they care?” Sarah said. “They want a good drama and, you know, and I think that’s something we did really well in the 50s and 60s. Good scripts — not all the time, not all the time, obviously — but good scripts, you know, really good editing, lighting where you’re thinking about it, and a good story.”

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